THE prospect of Mike Blair staying on at Edinburgh as attack coach came a step closer yesterday with the news that assistant coach Gareth Baber is to leave when his contract expires next month.

Blair, who steps down as head coach at the end of the season, has said he would be willing to remain with Edinburgh in his preferred role as an attack specialist. His successor, who has yet to be appointed, would presumably have to agree to that move, but the departure of Baber – whose official title at the DAM Health Stadium was skills and assistant attack coach – has at least left the role vacant. And the retention of Blair, along with forwards coach Stevie Lawrie and defence coach Michael Dodd, would provide some useful continuity.

Baber, 50, joined Edinburgh in December 2021, a few months after Blair began his tenure as head coach. The Welshman had spent the previous five years as head coach of the Fiji sevens team, a spell that culminated in his guiding them to a second successive Olympic gold medal immediately before he signed for Edinburgh.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in Edinburgh and I’ve built connections with coaches, management and players that will last a lifetime,” Baber said in a press release. “It’s a brilliant club and I’m certain this group will bounce back next season.

“I have, however, spent the last 18 months away from my family who are living in Wales, so it felt like the right time to relocate home and bring an end to my time in Edinburgh. It’s been a truly brilliant experience and I can’t talk up the club enough.

“I’m hugely thankful to Edinburgh for giving me an opportunity back in the 15-a-side game, while working with Mike, Stevie and Michael has been massive in terms of my own coaching career – the lessons I’ve learned and the experiences we’ve gone through together. I’d like to thank the Edinburgh fans for making me feel welcome throughout my duration at the club. I’ll remain a fan as I continue my own journey back home in Wales.”

Before becoming a sevens coach, initially with Hong Kong, Baber worked as a coach with Wales Under-20s and then the Cardiff Blues. He spent most of his playing career, like Blair, as a scrum-half, although he was fast and versatile enough to make some appearances on the wing.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh also announced yesterday that they have signed the former Scotland Under-20s back-row forward Tom Dodd. Now 25, Dodd has signed a two-year deal, and joins from Coventry. He had previously spent five years with Worcester Warriors before they went into administration late last year.

“I’m really excited to move north next season,” Dodd said. “It’s a beautiful city, and from what everyone says it’s a great place to live.

“The URC is a really strong competition that I can’t wait to get involved with. From watching on TV, the quality of rugby is incredible, while the experience of taking on top South African and Irish teams is something I’m relishing as a player. Edinburgh play a really exciting style of rugby and possess a lot of threats. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the lads I’ve not seen for quite a few years and getting stuck into the new season.”

Born in Warwick, Dodd qualifies to represent Scotland as his mother is from Glenrothes. He was a member of the national under-20s squad that finished fifth in the 2017 World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia. Among his team-mates then were three current Edinburgh backs, Darcy Graham, Blair Kinghorn and Charlie Shiel. In all, Dodd made 10 appearances for the age-group side, scoring four tries.

“We’re delighted to welcome Tom to the club,” Edinburgh managing director Douglas Struth said. “He’s a young and versatile Scottish player, who’s already experienced so much in the game in the English Premiership. His knowledge of many of our squad from his Scotland Under-20 days will also mean that he can hit the ground running in the summer. Whilst we already have a highly competitive back-row unit, Tom will add even more quality and expertise to an area where depth is always tested during the international windows.