Gregor Townsend backed to stay on as Scotland coach but told Six Nations performance 'not good enough'

Scottish rugby chief McGuigan wants results to improve and gives update on hunt for CEO and performance director

John McGuigan, the new chairman of Scottish Rugby, has offered his qualified backing to Gregor Townsend to continue as national coach but warned that the recent Six Nations performance was not good enough.

Scotland beat Wales and England but lost to France, Italy and Ireland to finish fourth in the championship, one place lower than last season. McGuigan, who is effectively running the Scottish Rugby Union while the search continues for a new chief executive and performance director, said the expectation was that Scotland should have finished first or second. He said he anticipated both roles to be filled by late April or May but in the meantime he offered a withering personal assessment of the national team’s Six Nations campaign.

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“Talking as a fan: not good enough,” said McGuigan. “We should have done a lot better. No-one is happy with fourth place in the Six Nations. We certainly went into it thinking we could win it or be second. So to come out of it fourth is a disappointment all round. Too big a delta between good and bad. And the stats back that up.”

Scotland finished fourth under Gregor Townsend's watch in the 2024 Six Nations.Scotland finished fourth under Gregor Townsend's watch in the 2024 Six Nations.
Scotland finished fourth under Gregor Townsend's watch in the 2024 Six Nations.

He added: “Gregor remains as coach and will continue to work with the team.”

Townsend, who has been Scotland coach since 2017, signed a contract extension last May which ties him to the role until April 2026. He has taken charge of 79 matches, winning 43, losing 35 and drawing one and has the best win percentage of any Scotland coach in the professional era. It was Townsend’s seventh Six Nations campaign at the helm and Scotland have never finished higher than third since the championship was expanded to include Italy in 2000. McGuigan, who was appointed chairman of the Scottish Rugby Ltd board last June, said he was not in a position to assess the team’s progress or otherwise over the course of Townsend’s tenure but he did say his sights were set higher than mid-table.

“I wasn’t here seven years ago so I don’t know where people would assess the team at that stage,” said McGuigan. “We’ve kicked around third and fourth place in the Six Nations and from that point of view we need to elevate our position from there. We still have confidence in Gregor that he can do it, that he’s got the right coaching staff, he’s got the right team in place and we need to go with it just now. That’s what we believe to be the right thing to do.”

McGuigan has taken over at a difficult time for Scottish rugby. The governing body posted a £10.5 million loss for the last financial year and chief executive Mark Dodson announced in January that he would be stepping down in June, a year earlier than intended. Hilary Spence, the chief financial officer, has left the organisation, and Jim Mallinder, the performance director, is working his notice and will also depart in June. Dodson is currently off sick and not expected to return to work and McGuigan was confident of appointing a new chief executive in the coming weeks.

“We’re down to a shortlist of five,” said the chairman. “I’ve got one person on that list who could start in May, and three people who are on three months’ [notice]. So you’re talking about someone starting immediately or in the summer.”

McGuigan said the search for a performance director was also well down the line but he added that the new chief executive would have a say in the final appointment.



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