Gregor Townsend begins talks with Scottish Rugby about his future

Head coach says he would like to stay in role beyond World Cup

Gregor Townsend says he will discuss his future with Scottish Rugby over the next few weeks.. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Gregor Townsend says he will discuss his future with Scottish Rugby over the next few weeks.. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTLAND head coach Gregor Townsend said after this afternoon’s win over Italy that he has started discussions with Scottish Rugby about his future beyond his contract running out at the end of this Autumn’s World Cup – but kept his cards close to his chest on which way the wind is blowing.

Asked when there might be clarity on this matter, he replied: “Soon. I don’t know. I’ve had initial conversations the last couple of the weeks, and [we’re] getting some time over the next few weeks to have a bigger chat about it in more depth.

“The focus these last two weeks has been these [Six Nations] games. After a few days off I’m sure these conversations will start up again.


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“I’ve indicated I need some time to think about it, especially when the tournament was in full flow. I’ll have some reflecting and time off and discussions will start again soon.”

Asked if he would like to stay on in his current role as head coach, he said: “Yes, at this stage, but it’s not the time to be answering these questions when you’re just off a victory, the crowd are behind the team and you’re connected with the players.

“It’s a great feeling, but I don’t want to commit to anything just now. There’s conversations that have started and they’ll start up again after some time off. We’ll see how they develop.

“Honestly, I’ve tried to put this to the side. Your brain has only so much capacity on one thing and that for me is to do the best I can as the team’s coach, now.

“Whatever happens the next week or two reflecting and thinking about the future when we get those discussions started again, I’ll address it again.

“But I’m thrilled with the players that have come through [this Six Nations campaign], the younger players who have come through, older players like Richie Gray, players who have maybe not been involved [for a while] like Huw Jones.

“These players are playing at their best level and that’s exciting. I believe the team feel they’ve got the game to take on anyone in the world, but we have to keep striving to be better.

“There’s a lot of areas we can improve, today and in the wider campaign. The tests are only going to get bigger in who we face in the World Cup. Two teams in the top three in the world. We’ve played the top two teams [Ireland and France], didn’t beat them, but we’ve learned a lot in those fixtures. We’ll have to be better again in the World Cup.”

 

Pressed on his general assessment of this Six Nations campaign, he added: “I think we look at game to game rather than general overview. The first two games were two wins and today was a win, but the most important games to look at were France and Ireland.

“The way we played against France in adversity was so encouraging for the team, to know that we can come back against a top quality side and play great rugby. Frustrating as well because we had enough chances to score two or three more tries.

“The Ireland game is very important for us because we play them in a few months time in the last pool game of the World Cup. For a half we played probably our best 40 minutes of the Six Nations, and we need to do that for 80 minutes against the top teams. The disappointing side of the Ireland game was the second half, when the game was there to be won by either team, and eventually they grabbed it and we didn’t.

“The other three games, Twickenham was brilliant, a really good team performance without that much ball, a brilliant team try at the end, and brilliant team defence to win the game. Wales was when things clicked in attack and today was a great finish.

“We’ll be disappointed with some aspects of today but to get the win, to get four tries, is good reward, Our attack has shown we can score tries, score them out wide and we’re stressing t eams across the field. Our defence has stood up on a few occasions as well. But both areas, we’re continuing to work to improve.”


Scotland v Italy report: late Blair Kinghorn try secures bonus-point win for hosts

About David Barnes 4012 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

47 Comments

  1. Let us remember that we reached a semi-final in 1991 and might have made the final had “ma ba'” Gavin not fluffed a kick. We almost made another semi-final if Referee Joubert had not wrongly awarded a penalty to Australia in the dying minutes. Both games were played in the UK, but the achievements, particularly in 2015 under Cotter, should not be underestimated. It was a kick in the teeth to get rid of him.

    The seeding system needs review. Could a provisional seeding not be made initially and then reviewed nearer the time ?

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  2. I’d be tempted to give Townsend a new contract. The improvements during his tenure have been generally really impressive and provided he has a plan for continued progress then he is worth keeping.

    I think a lot of people lose sight of what a Scotland coach has to work with. When compared with all of the other top nations, our player numbers are meagre to say the least. I don’t much care about world rankings, but to be rated 5th when we have only two professional teams is very impressive.

    David v Goliath(s) isn’t too far off being a reasonable comparison between Scotland and the likes of France, Ireland, England.

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  3. Replacing/renewing GT is a finely balanced decision. There’s no guarantee of success even with a super-coach, particularly if they are new to Scottish rugby or the test scene. I think GT has done a fine job but can see there is a positive argument for recruiting a world-class coach and bringing a fresh approach. I hope the SRU have put their feelers out and know exactly who would apply , so can make a more informed decision that posters here. Jamie Joseph may be available, the SRU have spoken to Leon McDonald, Rennie may welcome a return to test rugby. Will any of these be more likely to deliver test success? That’s the million dollar question and I really don’t know. With the current form of the Scotland team I’d only be tempted by Joseph I think.

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  4. What can we do that will move us forward? We can’t change the player base significantly, its not like there are youngsters knocking at the door sadly. Current seasons results in part based on good performances against really poor England and Wales sides. The midfield trio I understand owes a lot to the succesful centre partnership formed in Glasgow, Huw Jones in many teams of the season despite having been previously discounted by the current Scottish coach. Midfield of course completed by Russell who is in all the teams of the tournament despite being dismissed as 4th choice in autumn. So absolutely accept results butthe question remains how much is because and how much is despite the current coaching set up.

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  5. What can we do that will move us forward? We can’t change the player base significantly, its not like there are youngsters knocking at the door sadly. Current seasons results in part based on good performances against really poor England and Wales sides. The midfield trio I understand owes a lot to the succesful centre partnership formed in Glasgow, Huw Jones in many teams of the season despite having been previously discounted by the current Scottish coach. Midfield of course completed by Russell who is in all the teams of the tournament despite being dismissed as 4th choice in autumn. So absolutely accept results butthe question remains how much is because and how much is despite the current coaching set up. Given the length of tenure I think it would be healthy for both sides to seek new options but only as long as a quality replacement can be identified.

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  6. There are two key requirements in a good coach –
    Ability to SELECT and ability to MOTIVATE.
    In the FR affair GT was sadly lacking in both and continues
    in other selections for example like Price for Horne who is preferred by the Glasgow coach and is a good back up place kicker

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  7. we must remember many clubs and countries are looking for coaches at present so we need to resolve this now. If we wait until the WC all the best coaches will be taken. We also have 2 coaching issues we need to deal with a National coach and an Edinburgh coach.
    Franco has been awesome but lets not make the same mistake I think England may have made in choosing someone based on one season, we need a coach to take us through to WC 2027. And lets be realistic there will be calls for Townsend’s head when (unless we catch SA cold in game one) we fail to make the knock out stages of the WC.
    Has Townsend improved? Has he become a better man manager (always his weak point)? Does he have the same player support that Farrell has in Ireland? Let’s make a quick but considered decision based on all the factors and who is available. I don’t know the answer but in such a key role we need to understand what our options are. We also need to find a quality head coach for Edinburgh who are horribly underperforming. Many would argue their pool is at least as good if not better than Glasgows.

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  8. There is an awful lot of talk about importance of the Scotland head coach role but I am increasing coming to the view that it’s the coaching roles Edinburgh and Glasgow are just important if not more so . They are the people that develop the disciplines, the skills , the fitness levels , the mental confidence day in day out . The national coach then blend the players together and develops the tactics strategy . Selection is really all about putting the right people in the right role the one that maximises there strength ( bravely Mike Blair recognised that hands on coaching was what he loved and was best at ) .

    But the best example of this was the almost laughable recent demise of English Rugby and rise of Irish Rugby . I think almost all of us will accept that Irish rugby has risen on the back of Leinster rugby . So what happened 7 years ago they appointed the Stuart Lancaster and later Andy Farrell – both forced out by England . Below is an extract from Wikipedia says it all :
    “On 5 September 2016, Leinster Rugby announced that Lancaster would join their backroom team with immediate effect as a senior coach . He was hailed as an inspirational coach by the Leinster players following the sides victory over Racing 92 in the 2018 Champions Cup final. During his time at the club and as part of the senior coaching team, Leinster also won four Guinness PRO12/14 titles. On 26 September 2022, Leinster Rugby announced that Lancaster would be leaving to join French Top14 side Racing 92 for the following season. “
    The French know what they are doing ! Management is important but the real gold is in coaching
    My view is keep Gregor in role what SRU really need to focus on is getting cracking coaching at Edinburgh as I believe Glasgow have a gem in Franco Smith . I would also have a really good look at the talent pipeline it’s just not working as can be seen at age grade.

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  9. Whatever side of this debate you are on I am uncomfortable at the reference “conversations with Dodson”. There must be more governance (and rugby involvement) than that, surely. Appreciate this is perhaps a throw away line in a wider interview but I would have preferred, “interviews with appointment committee” tbh.

  10. Coaches will be available after RWC and we also have Franco Smith on the payroll. I was totally sceptical about him but he has done a tremendous job at Glasgow and actually gets selections correct. GT should take advantage of the positive chat just now and I’m sure an English or French side would happily take him. He isn’t going to get more out of the side when he’s still so stubborn about selections.RWC should also see a fundamental clear out. It’s abundantly clear that we are going backwards at a rate of knits at age grade. The whole structure and personnel needs to be gotten rid of and start again
    We need to divert funds from the hugely expensive SQ programme and massively improve internal development structures the way Ireland have. We are cannon fodder at youth level and getting worse every season. This will affect the senior team as time goes on as the cash to support running the senior team as a pro Barbarian outfit won’t be sustainable. Fewer Stronger has failed and we need to reset now.

    • Hi Dogma
      Agree with you – we should not be rushed into replacing GT – he pressurised the system and got rid of Cotter which was a mistake . We have Franco Smith as a back up

  11. Keep him. Pay him a $mill if you have to.
    I’ve scratched my head at some of the stuff he’s done but he’s always proved me wrong.

    People can say we have a golden generation, I don’t think that’s true.

    The Scotland team in the early 2010s had players like Paterson, Simon Taylor, Ross Rennie, Jon Barclay, a couple of test class scrum halves in Blair and Cusiter, Euan Murray, Ross Ford, the Lamont brothers and later on Richie Gray, Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland and never consistently won 2 or 3 games in the world’s toughest tournament and were regular wooden spoonists.

    He also needs recognition for his ability to recognise a player.

    Tommy Seymour, Sione Tuipulotu, Chris Harris and a few others are players nobody else saw test match potential in yet he played a critical role in recruiting them either for Glasgow or Scotland and turning them into Lions or soon to be Lions.

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    • You refer to the circa 2010 period and possibly argue our players then were much of a muchness with the players we have now. I have to disagree there. The forwards we had back then such as the likes of Murray, Ford, Gray, Taylor, Barclay, Beattie, Brown, Rennie, Denton etc were not bad. Probably not as good overall as the French, Irish or Welsh forwards of that era but they could front up at times. However our backline was definitely worse than we have had since 2015! Hogg was just a bairn and Maitland only really came in around 2012, 2013. Yes Paterson was good. The rest were just not in the same class! Lamonts x 2, Evans x 2, De Luca, Morrison, Parks, Godman. None of these guys would get near a test team now for Scotland with the attacking crop of backs we have now. I remember so many times watching us crab across the pitch with no guile whatsoever in games that were eminently winnable. We were as blunt as a butter knife. This was the main issue back then. Even if we had a platform on days our forwards matched up well the opposition would know we would just huff and puff and fail to blow the house down. Thank god for some of Dan Parks kicking!

      • I think our players now are better than those in the early 10s/ late noughties but it’s not the gulf some portray

  12. Sounds like GT wants to continue which is good. I’m sure he would be hot property if a deal with the SRU can’t be done. One thing that has evolved is that his coaching team has gradually improved over time. Am I alone in thinking that the departure of the previous attack coach just before Christmas has freed the team up a bit? I think GT and the SRU should come to an agreement but with an eye on succession planning in the contract. A negative view suggests that there aren’t that many available coaches that we would want anyway?

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  13. I think that the main irony of any reappointment of Townsend would be that he would mainly have Russell to thank for it with his quality performances (with some blips), especially in the England, Wales and France games. He is the heartbeat of the team and brings out the best in those around him. He can be annoying and frustrating but that is the price of genius. With no disrespect to BK, had Russell been able to play, I think there would have been a more controlled and dominant performance against Italy. BK may acquire the necessary additional skills in time.

    The SRU appeared to be rushed into Townsend’s original appointment, fearing they might lose him. Let us not forget that we could have scraped a win or even lost yesterday. If Wales has scored against us just before half-time, how might the game have turned out ? Let’s hope the SRU analyse the performances with a dose of reality and take into account the results bearing in mind the quality and state of development of the opponents we faced.

    I do not think they should be rushed by Townsend into making a decision and, ideally, any appointment should be made and kept under wraps until after the World Cup. The appointment doesn’t have to be a Scottish person and there will be talented coaches out there from New Zealand, France and elsewhere who might be tempted to coach the current talented batch of Scottish players. Fear and tunnel vision have no place in appointing a coach with a vision for Scotland’s future ambitions. However, we are a small nation and expectations have to be realistic.

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    • All good Scottish teams have revolved round 2 or 3 World class players coming together at the same time and this is no different. Finn is a brilliant player but I will argue the change in our fortunes has revolved round Ritchie Gray who we have no like for like replacement. He has given us the platform for front foot rugby which Finn and our backs have flourished.

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      • I think that isn’t just a Scottish thing….All the best teams in sport have mixed talent level groups…it’s the sum of the parts that wins the trophies.

        It’s a huge concern that we rely on a 33yrold super tall lock to hold our set piece together. Our lineout was atrocious before R Gray came back….and fell apart as soon as he was injured.

  14. I think that the main irony of any reappointment of Townsend would be that he would mainly have Russell to thank for it with his quality performances (with some blips), especially in the England, Wales and France games. He is the heartbeat of the team and brings out the best in those around him. He can be annoying and frustrating but that is the price of genius. With no disrespect to BK, had Russell been able to play, I think there would have been a more controlled and dominant performance against Italy. BK may acquire the necessary additional skills in time.

    The SRU appeared to be rushed into Townsend’s original appointment, fearing they might lose him. Let us not forget that we could have scraped a win or even lost yesterday. If Wales has scored against us just before half-time, how might the game have turned out ? Let’s hope the SRU analyse the performances with a dose of reality and take into account the results bearing in mind the quality and state of development of the opponents we faced.

    I do not think they should be rushed by Townsend into making a decision and, ideally, any appointment should be made and kept under wraps until after the World Cup. The appointment doesn’t have to be a Scottish person and there will be talented coaches out there from New Zealand, France and elsewhere who might be tempted to coach the current talented batch of Scottish players. Fear and tunnel vision have no place in appointing a coach with a vision for Scotland’s future ambitions. However, we are a small nation and expectations have to be realistic.

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    • As I’ve also said if we wait til after the WC all major club and country coach appointments will have been made. GT has also to look after himself and he maybe left without a position if you leave it til after the WC. To get the best we must start now.
      Look at the mess England and Wales are in by leaving their decisions til mid term.

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  15. For me Townsend stays. As Pete D says he got the job much too early and the 2019 RWC was too soon for him and we paid the penalty. Now he’s a much better and wiser coach. That process should continue into and beyond this RWC, with as good a group of players as we’ve ever had. Are there any glaringly obvious replacements? Not sure there are.

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  16. An observation if not an opinion…. We pushed Cotter out early when he was really starting to build something to find space for GT… Arguably his ambition making that happen earlier than it should have – he would/could have been better for another 1 or 2 seasons at Glasgow.

    There is much talk about 7 years tenure being enough, but we could also argue that he is now only hitting his stride, learning from his mistakes, because he got the job too early?

    A lot in life like sport is about momentum, and to upset that is folly – we criticised the RFU for ruining the momentum that Cotter had developed – are we not on danger of doing the same?

    If there is to be a new coach and that decision could rest with GT to go or not, then is has to be a step up and there may not be much choice in that till after RWC…

    I have been very much a GT critic but first to admit that we need to be careful in what we wish for, and not lose what momentum has been built…

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  17. We need a change of coach. Gregor has had seven years with arguably the best group of players Scotland has ever had and the results have been sketchy. Also, players tend to become complacent and shut out a coach after so long. So, I’m in favour of the change, but it does depend on who is available.

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    • You say his results have been sketchy will the best group of Scottish players. His record is the best of any Scottish coach. He didn’t inherit the greatest group of Scottish players when he took over from Vern Cotter as is shown by Verns’s record as coach against tier 1 countries. He has improve as the squad has improved, some of that maybe down to Gregor.
      If you want to replace him fine but the facts tell you how good he’s been.

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      • Sorry what facts are they. The fact we have never sniffed a grand slam, triple crown or got out of the World Cup groups. The facts that our record against Ireland and Wales have been woeful . The fact we’ve still never beaten NZ or SA under his tenure. Or the fact that we had a good record against England and tier 2 nations( apart from embarrassing defeats to USA and Fiji ) which significantly improve his win rate and mask the less impressive win rate against tier 1 opposition in the games that really matter.Which of these facts are you referring to.

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      • Tasmanian Tiger. The facts are we’ve won 3 grand slam in 150 years. 9 I think Triple Crowns, we’ve never beaten NZ and Gregor has had 2 of the best ever performances against them. He’s beaten England more times than any other coach. You can fiddle around with stats but GT’ s record as coach is the best in the history of Scottish Coaches and that’s what we’re comparing him with. As I said by all means replace him but just credit him with the record he deserves.

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      • every year, every season we get folk saying this is the best group of players ever ever, the best depth etc. Every year. Only interrupted by mainly the same folk saying how it was better back in the day, we lack skills these days etc etc

        Every group is different, every season. Some look better sometimes, which can be down to the quality of the opposition (eg Wales a few seasons back compared to Wales now – are we so much better or were they rubbish?)
        So I set all that aside, and deal in facts. Townsend has the best win record of any Scotland coach ever; fact. Over 7 years, that is not fluke.

        Those who don’t like him are entitled to their opinion of course, but lets deal in facts first.

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  18. There is some hysteria around Townsend at times. We have many of us been rightly critical of him particularly around selection at times and the old “Toonie Tombola” but Gregor has done a pretty decent job overall. Lest we forget the horrendous years we had from 2003-2015 when we rarely won any matches in the 6N and had a real lack of attacking nous. We have more often than not won 3 matches from 5 under Townsend in the six nations and have had alot of big wins along the way. Best ever run of games against England, going blow for blow with the French. Breaking some poor away record hoodoos in England, France, Wales. Also the brand of rugby at times very good with plenty of attacking elan.

    I think if we find the right calibre of head coach to take us on to the next level then im all for it, perhaps Townsend has had long enough in the job. But I dont think we should just get rid of him asap and rip it all up and try start over if we have not identified a better alternative. He isnt perfect and has made mistakes but our win rate is pretty high compared to before and we are building more depth all the time.

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    • What an utter load of drivel. There is no comparison between this current group of players and the unfortunates from the early professional era. The implication of your reference being that the improved results are solely down to Townsend. In fact an argument could be advanced that our results are impressive in spite of him not because of him. Now under normal circumstances One would assume that any competent organisation in the knowledge that his contract was up would have scoured the market to determine interest and then consider the available options. Forgive me if I am a little hesitant to believe the SRU have executed this obvious approach.

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      • I’m not saying it’s totally down to GT. But you cannot ignore his record against nearly 50 years of coaches who preceded him. Even the great such as Jim Telfer and Sir Ian McGeechan who had world class players to work with cannot match his record. What I’m saying is that whatever you think, whatever stats or comparisons you want to use he has been a bloody good coach for Scotland.

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      • I’m not saying it’s totally down to GT. But you cannot ignore his record against nearly 50 years of coaches who preceded him. Even the great such as Jim Telfer and Sir Ian McGeechan who had world class players to work with cannot match his record. What I’m saying is that whatever you think, whatever stats or comparisons you want to use he has been a bloody good coach for Scotland.

  19. I’d love to know what his KPIs were and what was determined a successful outcome over his tenure of 6 years. A grand slam, winning the 6N, coming second , winning a triple crown, getting out of the group stages of the World Cup. As he has failed to meet any of those criteria and as the SRU have opened discussions to renew his contract we can only assume his measure of success was lower than those benchmarks. What does that say about the standards set by the SRU.

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  20. I would like the final decision on Townsend’s contract to be made after the World Cup and for the SRU to be interviewing one or two additional candidates so that he is not the only game in town. We need a competitive results-based culture and that must start at the top. The Six Nations has not swayed me one way or the other and I am open to being convinced. Yes we came third, but as usual it started so brightly for us and then progressively tailed off. I want more given the excellent group of players we currently have – for we won’t have them forever.

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    • In an ideal world I would agree but the WC finished in the late Autumn so what opportunities would Gregor have if the SRU went another route as most of the top positions would be filled and likewise who will be available then?
      I don’t think you can say our season started brightly as usual as I think it was one of the few times we have ever won the first 2 games.

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      • I think this group of players have plateaued under Townsend – there were glimpses of “deja vu’ against Italy. The SRU should be succession planning NOW – GT was very lucky to survive the 2022 Autumn tests fiasco – as a coach he needs a new challenge – the SRU should let him go,

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      • Some fair points Iain, but we mustn’t panic, nor allow contract timing to allow the tail to wag the dog. There are no dovetailed definitives here – it is business and you need to be a wee bit canny. If Toony really wants it, then let him cool his boots for just a short while longer and show us how effectively he can lead a team in a successful World Cup campaign. It is the ultimate test in international rugby and hopefully he will put on a better show than last time. The verdict is still out for me, even after six long years – and I want to see conclusive proof either way. Even the All Blacks don’t keep their men for that long and recognise the need to refresh. Being a shrewd negotiator, Gregor may well be eyeing up other options and he tells us he has had several approaches. Fine, so which does he prefer? Put the gun away, for that was the tactic that got him the job in the first place and a renewed contract before the debacle in Japan.

    • It is a strong Scotland squad, it’s not as strong as Ireland and France’s though is it?

      I think Toonie has made a pretty good fist with the players we have at our disposal, but the truth is the 6N is highly competitive and we are a small country trying to punch above our weight. The idea we should have done better or won the 6N with another coach is just speculation with the luxury or being totally unprovable either way.

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