Gregor Townsend had turned up at the Scotstoun press conference to talk about this evening’s match against Munster but the first question off the top of the deck was about the Lions, after a national newspaper announced he’d knocked back an invitation from Warren Gatland, and so were the next 19 that followed it.
“I was only approached ten days ago,” Townsend, pictured, revealed. “Warren called me. It was to be part of the coaching staff. I don’t want to go into more detail than that. I was hoping it would be quiet until next Wednesday.”
When first quizzed on the topic a couple of months back, Townsend had declined to answer a hypothetical question, which made everyone assume naturally that he wanted and would accept the Lions’ assistant post.
Since then Ireland’s New Zealand coach Joe Schmidt has shown resolute loyalty to his adopted country by stating loud and clear that he would be touring with Ireland rather than the Lions and, while he flatly denied the charge, it is just possible that Townsend was influenced by the Kiwi’s show of loyalty.
It never looks good if you have to ask the boss for a sabbatical on the first week into a new job. Nevertheless the rumour mills insisted that Townsend’s Scotland contract had a release clause written into it so, the coach was quizzed, why did Townsend insist on the clause if he had no intention of invoking it?
“I don’t want to talk about it, contracts,” replied the country’s next national coach. “I would say my first priority in the Scotland job is to work with the players as soon as I can. We have an exciting tour to Australia that will be three to four weeks of coaching time with the players that you won’t get much through the year.
“It is probably the equivalent of the build-up to the World Cup. That is the number one priority.
“The offer threw me a little bit because I did not expect an offer. I did not expect to be on the coaching staff. I had never been on it before. Coaches coaching at international level are probably the ones that maybe have the time to go on a Lions tour. If we [Glasgow Warriors] make it to the end of the season the Lions leave right after the Pro12 final so that was what was going through my mind, that I would not be offered it.”
Had he turned down Gatland flat? “No, I wanted time to reflect and to make my decision after some thinking time... I wanted time to digest my offer but I had to go back to him a couple of days later [to say] that the timing was not going to work for me.”