Cornish Pirates director of rugby Chris Stirling to take sabbatical from Championship club

Gavin Cattle, Chris Stirling and Alan Paver
Cornish Pirates hope Chris Stirling (centre) will return to the club in future

Cornish Pirates director of rugby Chris Stirling is taking a sabbatical, the Championship club has announced.

The decision is because of funding cuts by the Rugby Football Union and the impact of coronavirus.

The season for English rugby’s second tier has ended and Stirling has returned to his native New Zealand to be with his family.

Pirates hope that Stirling, who was in his second spell at the Penzance-based club, will return in the future.

It comes as the club’s plans to move to a new stadium have been put back over an issue to do with land at the site and the coronavirus outbreak.

“It was Chris that made an offer, given the financial situation, given the fact we have been building the squad over the last two years in preparation for the stadium,” Pirates chairman Paul Durkin told BBC Radio Cornwall.

“With New Zealand closing its borders we thought it best that Chris should return to be with his family as soon as possible, so he has returned,” Durkin added.

“We had essentially completed our squad other than around the edges of it a few weeks ago, which Chris was intimately involved in.

“He has been giving guidance all through to Gavin Cattle and Alan Paver and they were involved in the conversation as well as to what this all means.”

As it stands Cattle and Paver, the club's backs and forwards coaches respectively, will take over the day-to-day running of the team, with Stirling free to return at a date in the future.

The Pirates were third in the Championship before the season was ended last week in Stirling's first campaign back after agreeing a three-year deal last April.

He previously led the club from 2009-2012, overseeing a British and Irish Cup win in 2010 and defeat by Worcester in the 2011 promotion play-off final.

“The performance this year has moved up and that is down to him and the coaches,” added Durkin.

“We can move things on, but probably at a slower pace than we had originally planned.

“When he came in there was a three-year plan, it’s still there, but it probably has been pushed back because of the funding cuts and also the coronavirus, which is going to knock all clubs back quite a bit.”

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