Gregor Townsend: Scottish Rugby ‘still has confidence’ in head coach

Scotland team at full time during a Guinness Six Nations match between Ireland and Scotland at the Aviva Stadium
Scotland finished fourth in the 2024 Six Nations with two victories

Scottish Rugby is confident Gregor Townsend can improve the national team’s Six Nations performances but this year’s campaign was “not good enough”, says chairman John McGuigan.

Scotland finished fourth in the 2024 competition with two wins – against England and Wales – from five games.

Townsend, who has been head coach for seven years, is contracted until 2026.

“We’ve kicked around third and fourth place in the Six Nations,” McGuigan said.

“And from that point of view we need to elevate our position from there.

“We still have confidence in Gregor that he can do it, that he’s got the right coaching staff, he’s got the right team in place and we need to go with it just now. That’s what we believe to be the right thing to do.”

Scotland have never won four or more matches in a Six Nations tournament, managing three victories from five games in four of Townsend’s seven campaigns.

McGuigan, who took over the stewardship of Scottish Rugby Limited’s board last summer, believes there is room for improvement in results but hit back at suggestions Scotland’s failure to win a trophy was down to a poor attitude.

“Talking as a fan: not good enough,” he added. “We should have done a lot better. No-one is happy with fourth place in the Six Nations.

“We certainly went into it thinking we could win it or be second. So to come out fourth is a disappointment all round.

“[But I want] to put to bed some of the nonsense about whether people are focused enough.

“I think coaches, players, support staff… everyone wants Scotland to do better than they are doing currently and that commitment is absolutely there to be seen on a day-to-day basis.

“In terms of attitude, I think it’s good. In terms of results, we continually have to work at it because that was not a good tournament for us.”

In a briefing with the media, Scottish Rugby’s chairman also addressed other areas including:

  • Concluding the appointment of a new chief executive to replace Mark Dodson by the first week in May at the latest, to be swiftly followed by a new performance director, with Jim Mallinder also due to depart in the summer
  • His drive to increase Scottish Rugby’s revenues by more than £30m to £100m over the next few years, with the governing body having lost more than £10m last year
  • The mission to transform the negative perception of the governing body among some fans and grassroots clubs
  • His belief that Scottish Rugby needs to “step up our performance” as a business

BBC Scotland has outlined some of McGuigan’s responses on key issues.

Appointing a new chief executive

JM: “When Mark [Dodson] recovers from his illness, he won’t come back. On a temporary basis, I’ll attend Six Nations and World Rugby meetings and the executive team will pick up the load in terms of what needs to happen between now and the chief executive arriving. Mark won’t return to do any work with Scottish Rugby.

“We’re down to a shortlist of five. I’ve got one person on that list who could start in May, and three people who are on three months’ [notice]. So you’re talking about someone starting immediately or in the summer.

“I want the chief executive to meet the performance director [prior to the latter appointment being finalised] to make sure we have the chemistry right between those two people.”

The search for a performance director

JM: “There aren’t many people who want to be performance directors. So you’re talking about a handful of people.

“You’ve got some people who are fledgling performance directors – who are wanting to cut their teeth and develop their skillset, you’ve got two or three other people who are established, high performance, really know what they’re doing. We’re down to the last two or three people to make a decision in terms of which way we go.

“I want the CEO to run the business and I want the performance director to run the rugby, and these two things cross over at certain points.

“For me, if I had to call out two priorities, it would be for the performance director to make sure the pathway stuff really starts to work. My biggest frustration at the moment is that we’ve got a glaring gap in terms of our ability to develop players and we need to sort that.

“And the CEO’s job is to work with me and the board to manage the cost base but principally drive more commercial success of the business and grow up the revenue number.”

Scottish Rugby Chair John McGuigan during the SRU AGM event at Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium, on November 18, 2023
John McGuigan was appointed chairman of Scottish Rugby’s operational arm last summer

The drive for more cash

Scottish Rugby brought in just over £68m last year- a record amount. However, the organisation still lost money and McGuigan says it has to do more to raise revenue above £100m.

JM: “It’s what we need in order to succeed, otherwise it will be constantly cutting and compromising. Is that the game we want to be in? It can’t be. We’re here to be ambitious, expansive and the best nation we can be.

“I don’t know any other nation that’s done that on the back of just cutting costs. We do need to find the revenue to do it.

“The Nations Cup is another potential revenue stream, how we develop the stadium, how we develop our commercial work harder than we are at the moment. We need to do a lot more on the commercial side.

“It’s an aspiration to get to £100m from where we are, but it’s not going to be in one leap. But we need to get there in order to have a business that can continue to perform.

“Where we can have the expectations we all want around winning things, having successful professional teams, supporting women’s rugby, making sure we have the right pathways and best coaches – we’ll need £100m to do that.”

Townsend conducting Six Nations review

McGuigan explained that Townsend is conducting a review of his side’s Six Nations performance, with input from outgoing performance director Jim Mallinder. This will be presented to Scottish Rugby’s board.

The chairman also addressed accusations the Scotland head coach is therefore marking his own performance.

JM: “The alternative to that is you bring someone in externally. We’re in the middle of a timing situation.

“There will be plenty of opportunity when the new performance director comes in to have another look at the Six Nations and take the learnings from it. So, the important thing is to capture it all and then the person coming in will be presented with that and that will be something to work from.

“I’m sure the person coming in will be pretty aware of where the focus needs to be.”

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