The Scottish Rugby team is almost known for being a mixed bag: some good games, some great, and some dire, but this August that rollercoaster went skyrocketing and Scottish rugby fans erupted in delight when Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend was announced as Vern Cotter’s replacement.
So is Townsend the right man for the job? Yes, is the answer. You only have to look at what he has done for Glasgow Warriors to understand how good of a decision this is for the SRU. Before Townsend’s appointment as the Warriors coach, Glasgow were a middle to low league table team with a handful of internationals.
Five years later Townsend has built the team he wanted with a plethora of internationals, most notably the Fijian talisman Leone Nakawara. His match record is also outstanding – he led the Warriors to a Pro12 title in 2015. They also came second in last year’s campaign and this year Townsend has guided them into a period of such good form that they have already beaten current champions Connacht by 38 points.
Townsend is also an innovator. Spotting and signing Nakawara proves this point perfectly but so does his team modifications. This year he has implemented the southern hemisphere sides ‘co-captainship’ structure in the Warriors – appointing both Jonny Gray and Henry Pyrgos to leadership roles. Townsend is not afraid to push the boat out or try new things and with Scotland’s record, this is truly welcome.
Even though Townsend is the man for the job there has been some Game of Thrones-style political intrigue surrounding his new job. Getting the Scotland job was a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ but everyone was agreed that it would still be a few years before he took the reins.
However, there have been rumours floating around about Townsend being offered jobs in France and England. The SRU could not allow the coach who orchestrated Scotland’s only trophy in professional club rugby to leave the country. In effect, SRU’s hand was forced.
Everyone may be heralding Townsend as the saviour of Scottish rugby but Cotter has given the incoming coach a fabulous foundation to work his magic on. The Scottish team now have a lot more strength and depth, with young talented players coming through the academies and becoming established members of the team.
In the 2016 Six Nations, Cotter’s sides finished fourth above France and Italy, whereas in previous years they been stuck between fifth and the wooden spoon. Cotter was also the chap that solved Scotland’s perpetual problem of turning pressure into points and his tenure saw more tries being scored by Scotland than there was in his predecessor – Scott Johnson’s – reign.
The only people not praising the SRU for Townsend’s appointment are Glasgow Warriors supporters. He has undeniably built up the club and squad to the force that it is. Townsend will leave them when they are arguably at their best and fans are worried that his departure will mean a return to the Warriors past.
But is there reason to fear? Glasgow have now signed New Zealander David Rennie – the coach of Super Rugby’s Chiefs to take over at Scotstoun. Not a bad replacement seeming as Townsend has been slowly adding Southern Hemisphere aspects to the Warriors’ game since he started.
Furthermore, in 2012 Rennie became the first first-year Super Rugby coach to win a Super Rugby title when he guided the Chiefs to a 37-6 win over the Sharks. So Scotland fans are rejoicing and the Warriors fans can take solace in the fact that Rennie, like their beloved Townsend, is used to winning, and winning well. Whisper it quietly, but the future of Scottish rugby is looking awfully bright.
Image courtesy of Simon Williams.