Carnegie boss Chris Stirling returning to Cornish Pirates team matching his own ambitions
GIVEN what happened at cash-strapped Yorkshire Carnegie, it would have been easy for director of rugby Chris Stirling to raise an eyebrow when listening to the bold plans of his next club Cornish Pirates.
It was announced yesterday that Stirling will re-join Championship rivals Cornish on a three-year deal starting next week.
The move comes, of course, as the player exodus continues at Carnegie following the recent revelation they will only operate as a part-time outfit next season.
Considering the vast budget cuts involved, it was always likely Stirling – the much-respected New Zealander who joined from Super Rugby club Hurricanes –would be leaving, too.
He was barely 13 months into a three-year deal at Emerald Headingley, having been recruited last March as the man to drive Carnegie’s push for a return to the Premiership.
However, despite making great strides on the field, suddenly the money dried up and the dream was over.
Cornish – where Stirling enjoyed real success between 2009 and 2012 – have spoken about their own desires to strive for the elite especially with a new ground being built in Truro.
Still, did the perils that Carnegie face, like so many clubs in the financially struggling second tier, leave him with an air of trepidation?
“I came into this (Carnegie) job with both eyes wide open,” Stirling told The Yorkshire Post.
“I have no issues here and the circumstances at Cornish are different; (owner) Dicky Evans has been involved for a number of years and he is a man of his word.
“It’s not as though there’s a reliance on a whole lot of people there. What happened at Carnegie definitely sideswiped everyone. People might have opinions on how it was dealt with and why but when I signed with them everything was lined up. It is just unfortunate. With everything that has happened here, when Cornish approached me I thought ‘why not?’ They are pretty ambitious, have great plans and I want to give it a crack.
“They have the new stadium coming and they want to take things to the next level.
“The work that’s been done by the current group and players is outstanding; they have been punching above their weight for a number of years.
“The board and investors feel it is time to try and take it to the next level and I want to help them do that.”
Stirling first worked for Cornish on an advisory basis in 2008 before taking up a permanent role.
He helped them win the inaugural British & Irish Cup in 2010 and also led them to a Championship final against Worcester Warriors the following year.
Stirling left in 2012, ironically because there was a lack of clarity over when Stadium for Cornwall would be delivered, and took a role as High Performance Talent Identification Manager for the New Zealand RFU.
This term, the 56-year-old saw Carnegie bottom of the Championship at Christmas but an influx of signings saw them fire their way up the table and they could finish as high as fifth when they round off their campaign at home to Hartpury on Saturday.
Pirates, however, currently sit in that position after Sunday’s 33-29 win over Carnegie in Cornwall.
Meanwhile, Brendan Cope is the latest Carnegie player to secure his future elsewhere.
The South African fly-half has been sidelined since a serious knee injury in September but will rejoin Jersey Reds in 2019-20.
Doncaster Knights confirmed on Tuesday they had won the race to sign Carnegie’s long-serving centre Pete Lucock on a two-year deal.