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Townsend to be given 2 more years?

Gregor Townsend - pic © Peter Watt
Gregor Townsend - pic © Peter Watt/N50 Sports

According to reports in the Times newspaper, the SRU are believed to be willing to offer Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend a 2 year contract extension that would see him in post until 2025, coincidentally the same year that SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson’s current contract expires.

The Times understands that a two-year extension has been prepared for Townsend’s consideration. 

The Times, Apr 6th

Before we – as denizens of one of “The Websites” that apparently need to be tuned out before a clear-headed decision can be made – all go leaping to conclusions, it’s worth pointing out that:

  1. There is no official confirmation this contract offer is real, although (friend of the blog) Mark Palmer is usually pretty accurate with any such accounts leaking out from that holiest of sieves, BT Murrayfield.
  2. We don’t know whether or not Townsend has accepted the offer. The story could be a balloon floated either to push Townsend to make a decision or light a fire under someone else mulling an offer.

There are rumours that Blues coach Leon MacDonald was one of many coaches who were interviewed or held meetings in that spell between “iffy Autumn” and “decent third place finish” in early 2023, when the SRU were rightly exploring what the post 2023 Rugby World Cup period might look like without Townsend involved.

Leon was hiding something in this recent interview below, but it seems more likely now that was an assistant’s role with Scott Robertson (another potential target) and his All Black setup post World Cup.

Another interviewee was apparently Warren Gatland. It makes you wonder, if this was some sort of deep-state barium meal aimed at opinion-gathering, whether the Gatland info was designed as a “here’s what you could have had” to make us feel either sad or like we just dodged a bullet, depending on which era of Gatland we were thinking about at the time.

Either way, with a Six Nations coaching role as a carrot you would, of course, expect the SRU to speak to almost everyone they could. Similarly, Townsend himself was linked with roles in England and France.

Another two years would give Townsend a chance to increase his tenure as Scotland’s longest-serving and most successful coach of the professional era. Every time that Toonsday clock ticks closer and it seems like the end is nigh, the team eke out some good results and pressure is eased.

If these are to be the last two years in charge – you wouldn’t bet against more if he can find some success in the next couple of Six Nations – Townsend will need to find that extra something that unlocks the results against our bogey teams, and quickly. Dodson has to some extent bound his legacy to that of Townsend but an incoming broom may want change for the sake of change come 2025 so Townsend will need to have plenty of evidence in his back pocket if he wants to see out a World Cup cycle that will likely tie in with a lot of the players of this goldish generation heading into the sunset as Stuart Hogg will do this year (Finn will be 34 in 2027, Ali Price 33, Mish 35). Changes coaches mid cycle doesn’t always work (cf. Wales, England).

Speaking to various media earlier in the week, Dodson had intimated that Townsend’s ability to take Scotland to the “next level” would be a key factor in him being kept on as coach.

With South Africa and Ireland waiting in the World Cup group it makes you wonder what the “next level” looks like.

Failing to beat the holders and the world’s number one team is not that much of a failure for a squad of perennial under-achievers and could not necessarily be laid at the doors of the coach (unless you blame him for the poor ranking that got them the pool draw), while actually getting a result would be seen as a minor miracle.

So the manner of how Scotland approaches the World Cup will do a lot to colour how Scotland fans face the prospect of another World Cup cycle under Townsend. Even if there is no miracle result, a capitulation like we saw at Japan 2019 – where Townsend dodged a bullet by hiring Steve Tandy afterwards – would be unacceptable and change a lot of “maybes” into “new coach please”.

By which point, of course, most of the likely targets would have been snapped up.

I’m sure Warren would still be keen though.

You can read the story on the Times website here (may require an account).

64 Responses

  1. If reports are true…..Why on earth are SRU offering GT a 2 year extension long before a review of performance can be conducted post RWC????…….on the back of what success?…3 wins in the 6N…a decent if unspectacular return. The last RWC was atrocious on and off the field…and we offer the same coach an extension long before he completes the upcoming one?
    Every other nation hires and fires based on the RWC cycle. We would then be giving a potential new coach half the the timeframe to build their own team.
    Madness…..Ridiculous imo.

    1. England, Wales, Australia have all appointed new coaches ahead of the RWC, NZ has made an appointment for post-RWC before the tournament and the defending champions appointed their coach 18 months before they lifted the trophy. Decisions are made when they are needed regardless of the RWC cycle.

      It is a finely balanced decision. The current coaching team has gathered some momentum since the appointment of Moar and Horne (who I hope are tied in for longer) in place of Zondagh. Tandy continues to perform very well. It’s madness to take that momentum for granted and assume an incoming coach will automatically achieve better results.

      What we should do is ignore talk about RWC cycles. Our goal must be to win the 6N any way we can. Maybe that means seeing if Townsend can finish the job he’s started? Maybe not, but weighting the decision based on a tournament in four years time we have zero chance of winning is not logical.

      1. We have changed everything, the whole coaching staff and every single player with the exception of the head coach.

        1)How can you seriously justify another 2 years with Townsend?

        2) What would you, suggest we do to take us to the next level ?

        You come across as a well read commenter, not short on opinions, I would be keen to know what you think!

      2. Why would you ignore the pinnacle of rugby?..the RWC. That just sounds daft to me.
        I seriously doubt if you ask any professional rugby player they would say that getting the chance to play at and win the RWC is not the ultimate achievement as a rugby player.
        The 6N is a good quality comp for the NH..no doubt about that…a competition that involves the best teams from all around the world is obviously more prestigious.
        What significant momentum is this you are referring to?…we beat 3 sides… 2 of which that, whilst we have struggled to get results against in the past, were undoubtedly in the early stages of coach/player transitions. We lost to sides widely considered as better than us and they were.
        We had a decent overall 6N with some improvements and some regressions. IMO there were no real signs that we could overtake Ireland or France ..who won’t be sitting on their hands waiting for us to catch up.
        See if GT can finish the job he started? ….6 years ago. 1 failed RWC effort…6x 6N where we are consistently inconsistent. At what point has GT finished what he started?..because we are about to see many core players age out and a new gen come into play.
        A 2yr extension deal ..doesnt imply much confidence either way..imo

      3. The questions Dodson needs to ask himself are:

        1. How much was this year’s improvement at the 6N down to Wales and England being in a bad place?
        2. How much difference did Moar and Horne make to our attack?
        3. If Tandy, Moar and Horne are important, could we kick on further with a new HC who would be willing to work with them?

        Giving him two years seems very hasty and generous. My preference would be to wait until after the RWC or at the very most give him another year to see if he can kick on at next year’s 6N to prove this year wasn’t a one off. That’s assuming there are suitable candidates available in 2025.

  2. I’m on record that I’d have sacked GT after the last debacle of a world cup campaign.
    Things have improved but is this inspite of GTs management (if it wasn’t for that big Fijian boy leathering Hastings Russell wouldn’t have been involved in the AI or perhaps not the 6N either), GTs insistence on playing Harris and Kinghorn at 10 held the team back.
    The cringeworthy after match interviews (Hogg culpable too). The ongoing issues with by far the best 10 available.
    I reckon it’s time for a new coach.

    1. I totally agree John Martin, and with hindsight I think that Hogg insisted that Harris was there because Hogg is useless in defense ( and attack ) . Though as most already knew Huw Jones is more superior individual than the Hogg and Harris partnership by a country mile. Townsend is a school boy minded coach at best.

      1. SAS : I have believed that for a very long time . I Just cannot believe someone has put it in writing. I am so pleased someone else sees it as well.

        Now , does that go as far back as Glasgow. Dunbar did a load of shifts tackling. Explains the mysterious loss of form at Glasgow for Huw Jones.

  3. So Dodsons criteria for issuing an extension is Townsends potential to take us to the next level.On the sssumption the next level is something higher than we currently sit it seems in conceivable to me that you would be considering a guy who has been in place for 7 years and only just managed to take the team to a level that is not acceptable. The logic is utterly bizarre.

    1. The next level is clearly winning the 6N and it is a well made point about whether we can expect GT to break through that glass ceiling on his 7th attempt. The other side of the decision is who will accept an offer who is likely to do better?

      Personally, I’d only really like to see GT replaced with a coach of the highest calibre. Jamie Joseph would be top of my list.

      1. We had one , let him go. I am no genius as you will have worked out , can you indulge me a wee me a bit please. What makes Jamie Joseph the ‘highest Calibre ‘?

  4. To quote Rory’s article ‘Dodson had intimated that Townsend’s ability to take Scotland to the “next level” would be a key factor in him being kept on as coach’.

    Has anyone seen any evidence of that?

  5. We finished 3rd as we did in 2018, 2013, 2006 and 2001.

    I suppose if he got another 3rd within 5 years , he would have taken us to another level. I could live with third yet again next year.

    I had better say it than leave it open to Interpretation, Townsend is not right to improve on 3rd. His whole package is not right.

    Yes we could get it wrong , I can understand Dodson’s predicament , he got it wrong when he lost Cotter and gained Townsend, he will not want to go on record having got the wrong head coach twice.

    1. I’m sure as long as his friend Townsend is getting a good salary from the SRU , and inviting Dodson for freebies, then he’ll vote him in regardless of his coaching abilities.

    2. Yet he’ll give the wrong coach an extension?….urgh!!!…for goodness sake..GT demoted a player who is a multigenerational FH talent to be our 4th choice FH over a petty ego argument.. he also made an absolute hash of the last RWC…his selections are continually dubious to many..and his results smell of just having a better quality player at his disposal than previous HCs.
      We are wasting undeniable talent we have at player level ..with terrible calls at exec and coaching level..imo..everyone can see it yet not the people with the responsibility to act in Scottish rugby’s best interests.
      We need to be extra smart with our limited resources and instead are making a pigs ear of infrastructure, development and national selections.

  6. Damien Hoyland, Henry Pyrgos and Nick Haining to depart Edinburgh at end of the season

  7. They should be making no decisions until after the World Cup. That much is obvious. See how the squad performs, if the decisions are right, and there is harmony, irrespective of results. Keeps GT incentivised to make it work now. And see who else is available then too. F stupid to do anything else at this point.

    1. Maybe Toony is forcing his arm again ? The old I have a job up my sleeve tactic.

      Words of wisdom for Dodson: Two Wrongs do not make a right.

      1. I don’t think GT has that leverage bc (1) keeping him is by no means essential, and even if it was (2) he cares more about the job than any other so presumably would u-turn on anything else if asked.

  8. is the a single person reading this blog who will stand up for Toony ? Does anyone seriously want to justify that ?

    Go on make my day punk !

  9. Toony has benefited greatly from the work done by Franco Smith and his coaches at Glasgow. It was they who are responsible for the Jones/Tuipolotu combination which Toony has copied and pasted not to mention the R Gray renaissance. This appears very hasty and short sighted by Dodson. I really hope this news doesn’t mean the RWC will merely be an event to showcase his favourite past masters (Hogg, Brown etc.)

    1. I think the big change this season has been replacing AB Zondagh, who came with amazing pedigree and oversaw the rapid deterioration of our attack. No idea whether Brad Moar and Pete Horne are involved through the World Cup but I hope so.

      People often talk about the Head Coach but rarely about the coaching team when it is the latter that is more important to delivering success IMO. Whoever we appoint needs to be backed to put together the best coaching team possible and not lumbered with internal appointments that don’t fit with them.

  10. The two year thing is weird, and I’d have waited until after the world cup for a final decision. That said, why so salty everyone?

    Townsend got us to 5th in the world. It’s kind of undisputed 5th too. The last time Townsend played every team below us (and could select from his full player pool), Scotland won. So please, tell me, where is the underachievement? Which of the top four has a smaller player pool, fewer resources, less natural talent than Scotland? Just to recap, your options are Ireland, France, New Zealand and South Africa.

    Sure, personality wise, he’s an acquired taste. And I do get the RuggersB point on his relationship with Russell. The fourth choice thing was ludicrous. But then Russell came back and played his best rugby for Scotland, arguably ever. Can you imagine if Townsend had caved? If he’d let Russell, Hogg and the rest do whatever they wanted? Do you honestly think we’d be in a better position?

    That’s even before we get into who you would prefer. The most common names in the mix over the past couple of years (other than Scott Robertson which was always a long shot) have been Danny Wilson and Mike Blair. Honestly, check back through the blog. People slagging him off on this very article endorsed both. Can you imagine the level of disaster if you’d had your way?

    He’s imperfect, uncommunicative, maddening at times. But he’s made us a competitive team, with a fraction of the resources of even our weakest rivals. I just don’t see this rugby nirvana that you seem to think he’s holding us back from.

  11. I just don’t see this rugby nirvana that you seem to think he’s holding us back from.
    Sir, the nirvana, the glass ceiling may very well have been achieved smashed Oct 2015 when a world cup final was stolen from us

    1. We marginally missed out on a semi-final. No real reason to assume we’d beat Argentina – the only teams we actually did beat in the 2015 RWC were ranked below us. We were fairly fortunate to survive the Samoa game with a victory. We played some good rugby but this ‘we coulda been contenders’ fantasy is very strange – we were just not that good (easily swatted aside by SA after all).

      The real glass ceiling is in the 6N, between those teams that are challenging and winning trophies and the also-rans. We have been banging against that glass ceiling for a while now with a few close run things under Toonie, but we’ve never been more than long shots. Winning the 6N should be our obsession. The RWC is a distraction.

      1. FF: You seem very cock sure of that . I could not disagree more. There is ‘no real reason to assume we’d’ NOT beat them either. Why say that !

        World rankings make little difference outside of top tier IMO. The deeper you go into a knockout tournament , in any sport, players get injured and sides such as Argentina do not and did not have the depth to sustain dominance. They lost 29-15 to Australia, the same Australia that we as good as beat except for Joubert’s (well documented and conceded by World Rugby itself) bias to do the right thing. (He bottled it in the 2011 final when he steered the All Blacks home against France turning the same blind eye)

        You have called that one completely wrong IMO.
        There is no need to criticize fans for their positive opinions. We were as good as there !

      2. It’s obviously a totally moot point – who cares how we would have done in a fictional semi-final eight years ago? – but the 2015 RWC is pretty overrated imo. We played one good half of rugby that whole world cup (don’t give me the Japan game, we were playing a team that were physically and mentally exhausted at playing South Africa 4 days earlier). Even the Australia game was moments of brilliance from individuals rather than a collective dominance over the Aussies.

        Other than that, we were, whisper it, pretty poor in 2015. Japan beat Samoa by 20 points, SA beat them by 40. We scraped by them by three after conceding 33 points.

        It wasn’t as bad as 2019 of course, that Ireland game was the dampest of squibs. But there’s a lot of luck involved in the fact that we think of 2015 as a raging success and 2019 as a disgraceful failure.

        I agree with FF that our focus should be 6 Nations, especially given the ludicrous draw we got in the RWC. I wonder whether that has something to do with the 2 year offer – hoping we keep continuity while others switch out. Win or lose, the home world cup will be emotionally draining for France, and Ireland will be starting the post-Sexton era. Half a chance?

  12. I suppose I was hoping someone, would stand up and make a strong argument for extending Townsend’s contract. There is a few hints, a few daring to put a sentence or two over the line, but as yet , no one that strongly backs him? There must be someone ? surely? willing to come off the fence. The doubters must be overlooking something ?

    1. These are well rehearsed arguments. Highest winning percentage of any Scottish coach ever, highest percentage against tier 1 sides in pro eta, first away wins against England and France in decades, away wins in wales and Australia, best representation on a Lions tour since 1997, most 6N wins etc. And we all know the arguments against.

      The truth is Scotland are in quite a good place at the moment, but certainly not enough progress to be confident of winning the 6N with a few more years. So the question is stick or twist and that really depends on who we might realistically be able to replace him with and what their plans for Scotland are – the latter we just don’t know as fans, but the decision is clearly finely balanced. GT hasn’t bombed but he hasn’t met our aspirations. What else is there to say?

      1. What arguments are well rehearsed? Only by you , I suggests as no one else mentioned them.

        Scotland are in a decent place, mind you Wales are in the worst place since the start of professional rugby, No money, Players in fear of livelihood, England , with a premiership minus two top sides and another 2 potentially fold are unlikely to be stable opposition.

        The reality is we are unlikely to win the 6 Nations anytime soon. This was our year , we were good enough , no serious injurys, back up and the other factors worked out for us.

        So I dont think it matters whether we stick or twist does it ?I do not think it is finely balanced, it is as clear as crystal.

        Now that is established, I say twist, we know what we have got and where that will take us, we know that he will go in 2 years if we stick, but we will are unlikely to win the 6N.

        I say grasp that nettle now and I am surprised you missed it, so obvious. Mind you , you wont find my opinions, in the Sydney Herald, Le Monde, Ruck or coming from the lips of Tom English. I am no fancy pundit or fat cat former player, no one to be adored.
        Just a passionate fan with no self interest and a head full of common sense. So take it or leave it.

        But we need to grasp a nettle eventually, I say do it now. All we are doing is prolonging a decision , might as well change and get 2 years ahead of our destiny.

  13. Personally I’d be quite happy for Townsend to keep his job for another couple of years. Yes he’s made mistakes but seems to have learned from them. We now have a squad which can compete with the best, albeit not beat them (yet).
    He’s put together a decent coaching team, and as with team selection, consistency seems to benefit the players and get better results.
    If the players still back him (and they seem to) then it would be stupid to bring somebody else in who will almost certainly take time to settle. Given the likelihood of us struggling to get out of the RWC pool stage, any replacement will have next to no time before the 2024 6N. I wouldn’t bet against a new coach struggling to pick up the pieces and ending up with a wooden spoon.
    Having said all that, there should be a break clause after 12 months if the results warrant (e.g. less than 3 wins in 6N)

    1. Wise words. Absolutely agree.

      Although we didn’t take a big scalp, I do think we are up for it. SAF is the one to take. First match RWC, they always need some time to grow into a tournament. No coach change imo means FULL FOCUS for that match in September…

      Go grab em Gregor!

    2. You are just prolonging the inevitable. I just dont agree with your rationale for keeping Toony. He is never going to make it. Do it now while Wales and England in turmoil

  14. Why o why was Tom Jordon not taken off tonight. He was very poor. Fraser Brown just cannot throw to a lineout when 5m from the opposition line. Even when they don’t challenge for it.

    1. It’s amazing how well Glasgow have done with such a mediocre choice of FHs available through the season really. Hope Thompson comes back strong and thrives under Franco. Jordan is a useful player but not the standard of FH a title-chasing side needs. I hope Smith is looking for a SQ player of a higher calibre to join the squad next year. Would love Hastings back.

      1. As I recall you never rated him first time around? What has changed ? Did he need to move to be appreciated or did the move improve his game ?

  15. A filthy night for rugby, lashing down for the entire game.
    Jordan is a very good player and has had an excellent season but he is really not a 10, he gives it everything but limited kicking abilities will be an issue.
    Z.Fagerson had a great game, rumbustuous in the loose solid in the scrim.
    Price was poor, everything improved when Dobbie came on.
    Still a win and a home SF not to be sniffed at.

    1. Be carefully. Aly Price is more protected in this criteria than the golden Eagle. Don’t offend him, his relatives, friends or domestic pets. I think he us played as he is on the books. That us all.

  16. watched the women on tv today – really felt sorry for them as they tried so hard but got totally mullered . Hopefully move to professionalism will make them more competitive over time

    1. What if it doesn’t? Do we ditch the project? Professional women’s rugby is a significant drain on the SRU’s limited resources for something that shows little sign of return on investment, and does not generate much revenue.

      1. I don’t think it’s right to regard women’s rugby as a ‘project’ tbh. In this day and age women want to play rugby, want to represent our nation and should be supported to do so. Now the women game is professionalising and we need to be part of it. How we do that might be a project, but not the mere existence of professional women’s rugby.

      2. That’s a bit harsh, SlowWalk90. It’s not a “project” trying to get a return on investment. Nor is it a “significant” drain on resources. I doubt the womens game costs more that the Super 6 at the moment.
        However, the results so far this year show a significant gap between France and Ireland (and possibly Italy) and the rest of the 6N. These one-sided games do nothing to promote the game and only show how much of a head start the professionally contracted players have.
        If I were the 6N, I would amend it to two leagues of 3, with each team playing each other twice, home and away. Promotion and relegation between the leagues each year.

        There is absolutely no reason to match the mens’ format, which has been going for decades and has heaps of tradition behind it.
        This would also make it easier to expand in future, to include the likes of Spain and/or Netherlands.

      3. That’s fair Merlot. I agree with your suggestions on how they could make their game more competitive. Maybe in years to come rugby in Scotland can truly become an equally played sport between the sexes and it can become competitive with multiple top tier countires.

        To be honest, I feel like it’s taken the men’s version until now to get to a truly competitive World Cup (with maybe 7 or 8 teams with a reasonable chance winning… Guess the seedings are good for something). It might take the women’s vesion another 40 years until they get into a similar situation.

        On top of that, if you take a look at developed female professional sport in America (primarily basketball and “soccer”) as much as the skill and expertise improves it still fails to attract spectators, advertisers and TV networks. I work in finance, and I find it difficult to see where the SRU will see anything but risk in their investment in the women’s game in the short term, and anything in the long term would need to be based on something that’s never been seen before. Maybe the world will change in the 40 years to come, but I’m not sure I see it.

        To be perfectly honest, and I don’t say it with any malice, I think it’s too easy to become a professional women’s rugby player at this moment. There’s very few Scottish male professional players with a far higher (but still not nearly high enough in Scotland) player base than in the women’s game. I think part of the reason that Women’s rugby is so uncompetitive is that the ability needed to make it as a professional is way different from country to country, and even more so in comparison to the male version of the sport.

        I may be completely out of date here, as when I played rugby in school as a boy there was no rubgy for girls at school or clubs. I live in America now, and watching my son play through various age grades even at the select level there are maybe 8 boys teams for every girls team (at best) and many of these girls appear to take up the sport at around 15+. The girls teams even at the older ages are much more based on size than skill at an age when that’s not the case in the boys game. From my point of view, the only way to make the women’s game similarly marketable to the men’s game is for it to have a similar player base to the the boys game from a young age. From there , something would need to change in society to create a larger audience for women’s sport in Scotland.

      4. Some really interesting points in this comment chain.

        Participation numbers is interesting. Rugby’s penetration into state schools is so poor in general but equally whilst football is well entrenched as the male sport of choice in those schools it’s less so for girls.

        Maybe a real opportunity to get girls in state schools playing the sport if the SRU and Govt wanted to go after it.

        Now the women’s team is professional they should buy a thousand rugby balls and get the players to as many state schools as possible coaching the basics of the rules. Get all the girls at the schools playing touch sevens for an hour as often as possible and make sure they know where the clubs are in case they like it. Should probably do the same with the lads too…

      5. Slowwalk: The first rule of Holes: When you are in one, stop digging. Oh well, in for a penny , here goes. What do you think about the 7’s project being wound up then ?

  17. Edinburgh could’ve been 2 scores (at least) ahead but infuriating errors mean trailing at break. DeBruin not good enough. Ritchie having a great game, little control from 10

  18. What a difference Nel made once he came on-even scored a try.
    Trust he will not be allowed to retire until he’s at least 50! ( he’s “only” 37 this month.)

  19. tough win from Glasgow. With many injuries on the backs, and Edinburgh’s season over…what would be the rules around hiring, say, Damien Hoyland for a few weeks…

      1. Hoyland is leaving the club…he’s essentially unemployed…Graham and VDM have ongoing contracts

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