THE search is on to find a new head coach at Preston Lodge RFC.

Andrew Clark stepped down amicably at the end of the last campaign – which had been declared ‘null and void’ by Scottish Rugby due to the coronavirus pandemic – following five seasons at the helm of the Prestonpans side.

Preston Lodge had been sitting seventh in National League Division Two, with games in hand over each of their rivals, when Covid-19 put rugby – and almost all sports – on hold.

They last played on March 7.

Victories would have pushed them into the top five and Jason Riley, who played under Clark, felt the side was heading in the right direction.

It was Clark who first brought Riley to the club seven seasons ago, where they played alongside each other before Clark took up a coaching post.

Since then, Riley has become the club’s rugby development officer and now East Lothian’s development officer for the sport.

Riley, who plays centre, said: “As a player, Andrew was great and he had a great ability in bringing players into the game.

“He had a very good skillset; he could run, pass and kick the ball under pressure.

“He was very calm and seemed to have more time on the ball than anybody else. There were many times he put me through for scores and he was a very accomplished player.

“The first time he coached, he was just the backs coach and then took on the head coach role.

“As a coach, what I liked most was that he does not try to overcomplicate things. He is very good at keeping things simple and getting messages across.”

Clark previously spent time at Musselburgh before joining Preston Lodge as the club’s first-ever development officer in 2006.

Since then, he has been a firm fixture at the club, other than a brief spell back at Stoneyhill.

It is understood Clark felt it was time for a change after many years with Preston Lodge and that he also wanted to continue to spend more time with his young family once rugby recommenced.

Blair Cowan, who also played alongside Clark before hanging up his boots and joining the club’s committee, paid tribute to his contribution and described his former team-mate as “a pretty good servant to the club”.

He said: “Andrew works for Edinburgh College in their rugby performance course and he has been a really good asset to Preston Lodge.

“Also in terms of recruitment, he has got people from the college down as well.

“It is not just on the pitch but he has been a valuable member off it as well.”

It is not known when club rugby will return nor when organised group rugby training can take place, though fans of all outdoor team sports will be hoping for some positive news today (Thursday) when the First Minister is expected to announce some further easing of the lockdown restrictions.

However, the close contact nature of rugby means there are unique challenges to be overcome before the sport can return and many believe it could be quite some time before the club game re-starts.

Scottish Rugby said it was working with the Scottish Government to ensure the domestic game could begin a phased return in line with its lockdown restrictions easing and that it aimed to help clubs through that process.

Further information on future phases will be communicated when appropriate.