The news that John Jeffrey has been appointed chairman and non-executive director of the Scottish Rugby Union is to be greatly welcomed, but unfortunately for him that means people like me will be offering our advice on what he should do in the job.

Immediately replacing Colin Grassie, whose performance had been ‘mixed’ to put it nicely, Jeffrey is taking over the role on an interim basis until the Board make a full-time appointment, probably next year.

I yield to no one in my admiration for Jeffrey as a player. He was one of the key men who won us the Grand Slam in 1990, the year after the Great White Shark was robbed of a full Lions test place in Australia because the English blindside flanker Mike Teague was in the form of his life and England-style mauls were preferred to Scottish rucking.     

Since his playing days, the Borders farmer has become one of the most respected figures in the administration side of the sport.

I recall when he was co-opted onto the Scottish Rugby Council ten years ago, and was then the Scottish representative on what was then the IRB and is now World Rugby. He’s been on its Executive Committee since 2016 and is chairman of its Rugby Committee as well as being a ‘designated member for clarifications in law’ whatever that is.

 His appointment last July as chairman of the Six Nations council for a three year term has put him in charge of the organisation at a crucial time for its development, and the same could be said of his new chairmanship, only at this time of coronavirus, it’s an issue of survival never mind progress.

Bearing that in mind, it’s good that JJ, as he always known in his playing days, is nobody’s fool and as well as his leadership qualities he can play the rugby politics game as shrewdly as anyone. It’s that latter quality that may be most needed in months to come, and JJ will be well aware that the crew of the good ship SRU is not a united grouping at the moment – there’s been a feeling of Murrayfield v the Rest for a long time, now, and I suspect John Jeffrey is one of the very few men who can examine the situation, come up with a sensible plan for going forward, and then implement it.

He will meet resistance in some quarters, but he has to have a touch of the Dominic Cummings about him – not the crassly insane bit that treats the populace with disdain, but the Machiavellian aspect of Cummings who whether you like him or not, delivered a Leave vote in 2016 and a Johnson-Tory win at the last general election by concentrating on simple, albeit mendacious, messages to the electorate. (That’s why I’ve nicknamed Cummings the Domniavelli though he looks to have done a Bill Clinton and escaped from a scandal that would normally have seen him defenestrated.)

JJ is no domniavelli, but he could borrow from the Cummings playbook by analysing the current problems of the SRU and getting out simple messages about what needs to be done. And right now, what needs to be done is survival at all levels of the game.

The new chairman is answerable to the Board and Council of the SRU and not directly to the clubs, but JJ is smart enough to know that he is going to have to take the clubs with him if he is going to steady the ship. Colin Grassie singularly failed to do so latterly, but the fact that he stood down rather than wait to be pushed does him some credit.

I would strongly suggest that this is no time to be playing silly buggers with the governance of the sport in Scotland. Whatever you do, JJ, don’t convene working groups or committees that will only muddy the waters.  I could tell you to stand up to Mark Dodson and the Murrayfield blazers, but frankly everyone is needed together on board right now and in this current crisis, Dodson at least appears to be talking a  good game – and if people think what the chief executive has been saying is too frightening and over the top, believe me it could get a lot worse yet.

I am not suggesting that JJ does nothing. That’s not an option – there must be action to save our game at international, pro club and amateur club level, while still encouraging youth development and the growth of the women’s game.

So let’s wish John Jeffrey all the best of luck for the future. I think he’s going to need it.         

Ps JJ – I know what really happened with the Calcutta Cup on that night in 1988 when the venerable trophy was damaged after you and PC Dean Richards – who was mostly to blame - took it for a wee jaunt. Suffice to say I was in the Guildford Arms (and several other central Edinburgh pubs) that night. But it was all so long ago and my lips are sealed…