When he is done being a rugby coach, an exciting new career awaits Gregor Townsend in the world of public relations. On the day after he extended his contract with Glasgow, a couple of boxes of top-class doughnuts ensured a sympathetic press corps even if they were not sufficiently pacified to overlook the inevitable questions about the deal that Townsend was doing his best to duck.
The one-year extension is almost certainly less commitment than Murrayfield wanted and, if his coaching career mirrors his playing one, Townsend may well be eyeing up a stint overseas, with France the most obvious destination amongst many.
“The last contract I signed was similar, happening two seasons ago when I added a year,” replied the Glasgow boss. “I thought that went pretty well. They might not want me in a year’s time and I’m comfortable. It will be five years I’ve been at the club and we’ll see next year if it is the right thing for me to stay.
“When I went to play, I spent three years at Northampton. Then the game turned professional. Professional rugby was much more advanced in those countries, whereas now, at Edinburgh as well as Glasgow, we have proper professional teams that can compete at the highest level that have excellent structures.
“It will be tough to continue to compete, but we are in a better position than we have ever been and the Union is supporting professional rugby like they have never done before. Times have changed. Working with this group of players I know how lucky I am compared to a number of other coaches out there.”
Having lost their opening match against Northampton, a second home loss today would spell curtains for Glasgow’s European ambitions for another year. Townsend revealed an unchanged team for today’s key match against the Scarlets, naming the same XV that was selected for last Saturday’s league match Leinster, a tie lost to the weather.
Young hooker James Malcolm gets his first start for the club and Duncan Weir is preferred to an out-of-form Finn Russell, who has struggled a little since returning from the Scotland’s World Cup campaign.
“It is not a weather call,” Townsend insisted. “Duncan has been training well and deserves the opportunity. Finn knows he wasn’t his best against Treviso but has responded well in training. We have a competitive situation with two players who were in the World Cup squad. One playing well will force the other to play well.
“We expect it to be dry. The covers are coming off. A couple of areas have had water but they will be removed by tomorrow. The rest of the pitch is reasonably firm so it is a lot better than this time last week. The covers have been a success.”
Townsend hopes it will stay dry, if only because Glasgow’s back three, Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Taqele Naiyaravoro, looks as dangerous as a lit fuse if the weather ever allows the ball to come their way. The Scotstoun pitch was completely covered with plastic sheets for much of last week in an effort by the ground staff to ensure that the surface is playable following incessant rain.
Inside the back three, Alex Dunbar continues his rehabilitation alongside Peter Horne in the midfield and Mike Blair gets the nod at nine ahead of Grayson Hart. Glasgow’s player of the month, Leone Nakarawa, partners club captain Jonny Gray in the second row and the back-row trio, who have a busy afternoon ahead of them, has a muscular look about it, with Josh Strauss filling the number six shirt, Adam Ashe at eight and Simone Favaro at openside.
At least the Italian international won’t have to deal with one of his predecessors in the Glasgow seven shirt. After losing their opening two matches, the Scarlets have taken the decision to rest a number of frontline troops, including John Barclay who would have fancied making a point on his old stamping ground. Club skipper Ken Owens, vice captain Scott Williams and another Glasgow alumni in the form of winger DTH van der Merwe also miss this match.
Instead, the main opposition threats will come from the halfbacks, Gareth Davies and Steven Shingler, while Regan King brings age, experience and oodles of class to the midfield – the first player in the history of the Pro12 to play alongside his son Jacob Cowley, although Junior is not included in today’s match day 23.
When quizzed about his feelings about not having to face former players Barclay and van der Merwe, Townsend made no secret of his relief.
“Delighted from a rugby perspective,” he replied, “disappointed from a personal perspective.”