Townsend, who has been head coach of Scotland since 2017, is contracted with the SRU until after the tournament, which kicks off in Paris on September 8 and ends on October 28.
According to the respected rugby paper Midi Olympique, he was among a number of candidates applying for the role of attack coach with Fabien Galthie’s side. Galthie, the France boss, is seeking a replacement for Laurent Labit, who is to join Stade Francais after the World Cup. The paper reports that Galthie wanted to appoint Pierre Mignoni, but he has opted to remain as the head coach of Toulon. A spokesperson for the SRU said they would not comment on speculation.
Townsend, 49, spent a large chunk of his playing career in France, joining Brive in 1998 and then moving to Castres two years later. He also had a spell with Montpellier following the end of his international career. He speaks French well and has never hidden his admiration for the country. He is the longest serving – and most successful – Scotland coach of the professional era. He has taken charge of 61 Tests with the national team, winning 33, losing 27 and drawing one.
Earlier in the day, the governing body did confirm the departure with immediate effect of Scotland’s attack coach, AB Zondagh. The South African, who took on the role in August 2021, is expected to join the French Top 14 club Lyon as assistant coach. Like Townsend, Zondagh was contracted until after the Rugby World Cup and the head coach will now consider whether to appoint a replacement ahead of the tournament. A statement from the SRU said: “AB Zondagh has left his position as Scotland assistant coach for family reasons and to pursue opportunities. We wish him all the best and thank him for his contribution since joining in 2021.”
Zondagh, 36, came to Scotland after a successful stint in France with Toulouse where he was part of the coaching team which helped the club win the Champions Cup and Top 14 double in season 2020-21.