Scottish rugby’s boss Mark Dodson is nothing if not decisive and he was adamant that his decision to replace national coach Vern Cotter with the home-grown talent that is Gregor Townsend was fully justified. That decision sparked a flurry of activity because Townsend’s replacement at Glasgow Warriors, Dave Rennie from the Chiefs in New Zealand, was also announced last week; a undoubted coup since Rennie has not one but two Super Rugby titles on his resume.
“We had looked at this for a good period at time,” said Dodson after yesterday’s SRU agm at Murrayfield. “Once we made the decision, you have to start with Glasgow and make sure you can replace Gregor with a high-quality candidate. We managed to persuade Dave Rennie to come and once that was in place we had already taken the decision around Gregor and it was straightforward.
“He believes he is inheriting a good squad from Gregor, his team play a fast offloading game similar to Glasgow and they have a new surface to play on. He is smitten by the ambition we have to take the game forward and we owe the supporters at the Warriors the best person we could get to replace Gregor.”
There is an argument that at just 43 years old Townsend might have been better served by going abroad, if only as far as England’s Aviva Premiership, to enhance his coaching skills and add some experience to his CV. Dodson conceded the point but argued otherwise. “Our conversations with Gregor were round the fact that he is very clear he is ready and wants to do the job now,” said the SRU chief executive. “He feels he wants to do the job now and feels it is the right time. We also feel it is the right time for him to do it.
“Who knows what kind of squad will be in place in 2020, will it be the people he feels he can work with? There is a whole list of variables. We believe his knowledge of the squad, his ability to play attractive, distinctive rugby in a singular way makes it the right time for him. We believe it was the right thing for him to stay here.”
The domino effect of moving Townsend into the national job means that someone at the end of the shelf is knocked off and that someone is Vern Cotter, who probably saw himself returning to Japan for the World Cup in three years’ time.
Instead he has one more year as Scotland coach in which to audition for a new job somewhere else. How did “Stern” Vern take the news of his demise?
“Vern is a pragmatic, professional guy,” replied Dodson. “He believes there is more in this team, more to come out of the current squad, but the guy is a professional and a guy of great integrity.
“He just said, ‘I understand why you are going for a Scotsman but I am focused on the Six Nations and the Autumn’ and that is how I left it with him.”