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'The time is now right': Townsend to replace Cotter in Scotland job next summer

The former out-half will be a big loss to Glasgow Warriors and the Pro12.

Image: Craig Watson

GREGOR TOWNSEND WILL replace Vern Cotter as the head coach of the Scotland national side at the end of the 2016/17 season, the Scottish Rugby Union announced  today.

Cotter’s contract expires in June 2017 and the SRU has now made public its intention to install former international Townsend into the role when his current deal as head coach of the Glasgow Warriors ends at the same time.

“Gregor’s abilities as a head coach are evident and he is increasingly becoming one of the most sought-after coaches in the game,” said SRU chief executive Mark Dodson in a statement.

Townsend, 43, took charge of Glasgow in 2012 after three years as an assistant coach with the national side. He has since taken Glasgow to the Pro12 play-offs in each of his four seasons in charge and led them to their first title in 2015 after they also topped the regular season table.

“I am incredibly proud to take on the Scotland head coach role at the end of the season,” said Townsend, who won 82 Scotland caps and two for the Lions.

Cotter, 54, took over as Scotland coach in May 2014 after previously being in charge of club side Clermont, who he guided to win France’s Top 14 title with Joe Schmidt in 2010.

The Kiwi came close to pushing Scotland into the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup only for the team to suffer a heart-breaking quarter-final defeat by Australia following a controversial last-gasp penalty.

Shortly before that tournament, Cotter extended his Scotland contract until 2017.

His first Six Nations ended with five defeats from five, but this year’s edition brought wins over Italy and France.

Time is right for Gregor

With Cotter’s two immediate predecessors Andy Robinson (England) and more recently, Scott Johnson (Australia), also both coming from outside the country, the SRU believe now is the time to think of appointing a homegrown coach.

“I have been charged with developing Scottish coaches and believe the time is now right to secure Gregor’s talents, as we build towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan,” Dodson added.

Vern Cotter has made a considerable impact on the development of the Scotland national side during his tenure. His rugby philosophy of setting high standards with a big emphasis on skill development has had a positive effect throughout Scottish rugby.

“No one will forget our Rugby World Cup 2015 journey as Vern led the team to the quarter-finals and so nearly a semi-final.

“However the board and I now believe the time is right to take the development of the national team forward with Gregor.

“Gregor’s playing record as a Scotland international and British Lion showed he is a man of vision and great professionalism, which he has since successfully transferred into his coaching roles, firstly with Scotland and subsequently Glasgow Warriors.

Gregor Townsend and Mark McCall Townsend with Saracens boss Mark McCall at the Champions Cup launch last season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It is these factors which I feel will enable Scotland to continue its forward momentum, building on the strong foundations laid by Vern, with the current group of players and future Scotland internationals.”

Last year’s Six Nations wins are the only two Cotter has managed to guide Scotland to in 10 fixtures in European rugby union’s showpiece international event.

“Since taking up this role I believe we have moved forward as a group by working to execute the simple things well,” Cotter said.

“I intend to remain focused on the upcoming Autumn Internationals and remaining Scotland matches in 2017.”

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