MIKE Blair has been named as Scotland’s interim head coach for this summer’s two away games, against Romania and Georgia on 10 and 17 July, and for an ‘A’ fixture in late June against opponents yet to be announced. 

The venues, kick-off times and broadcast agreements have also still to be finalised. 

Currently the national team’s attack coach, Blair will be assisted for the three matches by forwards coach John Dalziel and scrum coach Pieter de Villiers, both of whom are already in the Scotland set-up, and by Glasgow defence coach Pete Murchie. Jim Mallinder, the SRU’s director of high performance, will also be on tour to lend support to the coaching group.

Capped 85 times by Scotland, Blair has been seen as a national coach in waiting since he retired from playing and started work with the Warriors as a skills coach. The former scrum-half owes this opportunity to the fact that both Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and defence coach Steve Tandy will be in South Africa with the British & Irish Lions this summer. 

With senior internationals such as Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray and Hamish Watson likely to be on tour with the Lions, Blair suggested that his first squad would include some new names.

“This tour gives us the chance to work with a wider group of players and see how they can step up into the international game, whilst also continuing to look to improve with our established Scotland players,”

The 40-year-old said in a statement released by Murrayfield yesterday. “The three matches will present very different challenges, and as a squad and coaching group we will be looking to continue to create depth and competition for places within strong team performances.”

England and Spain are the two potential opponents in the A game, which is likely to take place around the same time as the Lions’ warm-up Test against Japan at Murrayfield on 26th June. The Lions, who will prepare for that match at a training camp in Jersey, have now reached an agreement that will see English Premiership clubs release their players for both the camp and the match itself, meaning the likes of Exeter’s Hogg and Gray could be involved.

However, Premiership Rugby warned that the agreement was a one-off, and that in future it would not release players outside of the agreed international window if its season was ongoing. The Premiership final at Twickenham will take place on the same day as the Japan match in Edinburgh.