Townsend will perhaps be best remembered for that sublime reverse pass - taking two French defenders out the game – which sent Gavin Hastings through to score under the posts, and gave Scotland their first victory in Paris for nearly thirty years.
At his best that’s the sort of player Townsend is; a risk-taker, mesmerising and visionary in attack, and worth the admission money alone. At his worst, he can be frustratingly careless, too risky, too quick for his team-mates, and enough to make you tear your hair out. But by common consent he is one of the few Scottish players of recent years to be genuinely world-class. At his sublime best there are few better – Townsend can do things that other players wouldn’t even see, let alone have the audacity to pull off.
First capped in 1993, Townsend’s international career has seen him playing in various different positions as coaches try to get the best of his attacking brilliance while attempting to minimize his risks. But it is at his preferred position of stand-off that he has won the majority of his caps, standing incredibly flat in order to always break the gain-line quicker or send another player through a gap – his range of passes, flicks, flips, reverses, pops, drops, is quite bewildering.
It is at stand-off that Townsend has enjoyed his two greatest rugby triumphs, as a member of the series-winning 1997 British Lions in South Africa (playing an uncharacteristically restrained role) and in Scotland’s victory in the last 5 Nations Championship in 1999 when he made his own piece of history by scoring a try in every game, a feat no Scottish player had achieved since the Grand Slam in 1925.
Quite simply the most talented, most exciting Scottish player of his generation.