Rotherham Titans have appointed Lee Blackett as their new coach, ending weeks of speculation that the board of directors would name him to succeed Alex Codling who left the Championship club a week ago following the last match of the league season.
Blackett, aged 30, will be the youngest coach in the Championship, but his solid character and maturity were in evident in November when Rotherham were thrown into turmoil after the resignation of coach Andre Bester.
The Titans’ new coach quickly took over. His authority and leadership impressed the board, and once Codling’s period had begun, Blackett established a good working relationship with him and was put in charge of the backs.
Blackett, who started his league career at Rotherham under Bester and then moved to Leeds for whom he made more than 100 appearances from 2006 until 2012, returned to Clifton Lane last year as a player, but he has made it clear that he will not play again unless there is a shortage of centres because of injury.
“This is a massive honour for me and I hope to stay at Rotherham for the foreseeable future. I care a lot about the Titans and after what has been a difficult season when we have had two coaches, Rotherham need stability,” he said.
“It’s a real thrill to get the job, but I know it is going to be a big challenge. However, recruitment has gone well, we have retained a group of good players, including Garry Law, and shortly we will be announcing some more signings, including a new centre and fly half.
“So far, we have put together a squad for next season of 24 players, so we need another six, but we have yet to appoint a new forwards’ coach.
“We have seen several candidates and we have more to interview, but as this is such a vital position, it may take longer than two to three weeks to get the right person.
“I have to make the right decision because Rotherham must have a well coached pack,” explains Blackett.
The Titans’ new coach, who holds the record for scoring the fastest try in the Premiership from the kick off - after eight seconds against Newcastle in 2008 - has already made one important decision: the squad will report back earlier than usual.
Pre-season training will start on Thursday June 20th and Blackett has also arranged one game before the new Championship season begins in the second week of September.
Rotherham will travel to play Worcester Warriors of the Premiership on Wednesday August 14.
“I am going to arrange another fixture against Premiership opposition and then another game, but I don’t believe in playing more than three matches before the season starts.
“I have decided to bring the squad in earlier than usual so that we prepare ourselves in the best way possible and then we give ourselves the best chance of winning our first game,” Blackett added.