Gregor Townsend has revealed that talks are ongoing with his SRU employers about the prospect of extending his tenure as head coach of Glasgow Warriors beyond the end of his current contract – which runs out in the summer.
The 42-year-old showed the sort of agility which characterised his playing days when trying to sidestep the question of whether he would be following Alan Solomons, his rival along the M8 at Edinburgh, in putting pen to paper on a new deal – but he did indicate that things may become clearer in that not too distant future.
“Ask me later – maybe next week – and we’ll see. We’re here to talk about the team. I am contracted for this year and discussions have been ongoing” he said.
There is little doubt that Townsend will have options if he chooses to move on at the end of the 2015-16 campaign. The coach has established himself as one of the most highly regarded young coaches in the game since hanging up his boots in 2007.
After a bumpy start to his post-playing career as attack guru for a Scotland national team which struggled to score tries between 2009 and 2012, he was a shock appointment to the Glasgow job in place of Sean Lineen just over three years ago. He soon had his doubters eating their words, however, as he guided the Warriors to a third place finish in the Pro 12 in his first season in charge, a second place finish the year after, followed by an historic top of the table achievement and Grand Final success last season.
After a glittering playing career which took in spells in England, France, South Arica and Australia, as well as in his native Scotland – the perception is that Townsend will want to test himself in a coaching capacity outside the bubble of his homeland at some point. However, the man himself tried his level best to downplay his globetrotting instincts yesterday.
“I’ve not been to many places since I’ve been coaching. Why would I want to leave this great weather? The weather in South Africa and Australia is nothing on this,” he sardonically stated, whilst looking out of the media room window at the back of the main stand at Scotstoun onto a drenched playing surface.
The one major blot on his coaching copybook at the moment is a lack of success in European competition. The Warriors have so far failed to make it beyond the group stage of the Champions Cup and it is Townsend’s stated aim to rectify that situation this time round.
Their opening match of this year’s tournament away to Racing 92 was postponed in the wake of the Paris terrorist attack, and they then lost at home to Northampton Saints – so Townsend knows Saturday’s clash against the Scarlets at Scotstoun has the potential to be a season-defining event.
“We would be right up against it if we were to lose this one. We have only played one game and there are five to go, we probably have to win four out of five, it would be very difficult if we had to win all the last four,” he conceded. “They’ve actually been training really well. I don’t know if I say that every week, but last week was excellent. Today we had 39 players at training. We had guys coming back s like Peter Murchie, Glenn Bryce and Fraser Brown, who are now training with the group, which has given us a little bit of a boost. And the whole squad is fresh after the weekend, and you don’t often get that on a Monday.”
The reason the squad are all feeling so bright and breezy is because their game at the weekend against Leinster was postponed due to a water-logged pitch. That was the second game in four weeks that the Warriors have prepared for only to be left frustrated at the last moment.
It will cause fixture congestion later in the season is clearly a concern, but Townsend tends to be a glass half full type of guy.
“It’s not ideal, but the positive is that players are fresh and even more determined to play a game. We also get to train more. Obviously we want to play because this group haven’t played that many games since the World Cup, but when this happened two years ago we played Edinburgh on the quarter-finals weekend in Europe and we played Treviso during the Six Nations and did pretty well, so we have experience of this,” he said.
“That group of 20-odd players who were away during the World Cup did not have time to work with our coaches over the last three months, or time to work with their teammates, so now we have had that even if it means we have not had a game,” he added. “We’ve learned from parts of the Northampton game. I think it will be different because we are a couple of weeks further down the line. That was the first time that the group had played together, but since then we have had a couple of games and we’ve trained a lot together.”