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:
- 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.
- 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).