MARK Dodson has insisted that Gregor Townsend will only be offered a new deal if he is convinced that the head coach can continue to make progress with the national team. Speaking on the BBC Scotland’s Rugby Podcast, the SRU chief executive acknowledged that the players want Townsend to stay on, and said that talks would be held this week.
“We’ve had a process this time – which Gregor has been aware of – looking at what is the right voice to take us forward from 2023 onwards,” Dodson said. “It’s been less about Gregor’s track record in what he’s done in tournaments up until the Six Nations and about what’s right for this group of players, who are going to be in transition from ’23 to ’27. What’s the right voice?
“As part of that we’ve done a huge amount of due diligence. We’ve spoken to coaches all over the globe about how they see Scotland and, if they were able to do the job, how would they undertake the task. We’ve finished that due diligence process.
“I was clear with Gregor right from the get-go that this is what we were going to do – we were going to talk to coaches all over the world. He was also free to talk to people about his own future, and things have come out about conversations that have happened in France and potentially elsewhere. This is entirely expected. It’s not his first rodeo and it’s not mine, we understand this is the way the world works.
“I’m speaking to Gregor this week and we’ll see where we go.”
Townsend, who has been in the post since succeeding Vern Cotter in 2017, led Scotland to third place in this year’s Six Nations thanks to wins over England, Wales and Italy. After saying he was “pleased but not delighted” with that outcome, Dodson – himself due to remain in office until the summer of 2025 – insisted he had to be convinced that the incumbent was the right man to lead the squad to greater achievements.
“We know how the players feel,” he continued. “The players have thrived under Gregor, we’re aware of that.
“What I’ve got to do and what [SRU performance director] Jim Mallinder’s got to do, we’ve got to zone all that out – what the supporters feel, what the websites feel, what the players feel almost – and actually take a holistic view, coolly and dispassionately and have a look on paper. What is the best voice to take us forward?
“How do we improve? How do we stop this being a glass ceiling? How do we get to the next level?
“If we believe that is Gregor or we believe that is somebody else, that’s the job I’m paid to do. In terms of support for Gregor inside the camp, that’s pretty clear.
“We’ve known each other a long time. We haven’t always seen eye to eye over things. We have a very good working relationship, but he’s his own man and I’m mine. The most important thing is there’s a trust and a belief we will do things the right way.”
Townsend, whose present contract expires after this autumn’s Rugby World Cup, said in January that he had been approached by France about working with their national team, but denied a rumour linking him to Leicester Tigers. “I did get a call from France to see if I would be interested,” he said at a pre-Championship press conference.
“I said I was not prepared to go into any discussions until after the Six Nations. I have had no contact with Leicester. At all. People may want to get in contact with you or your agent because they know your contract is up and, yes, my contract is coming to an end at the end of the year.”
Auckland Blues coach Leon MacDonald is understood to be one of the potential alternatives to Townsend, who has said he would be keen to stay on in the job.