Scotland’s Summer Tests in South Africa under threat from coronavirus

Gregor Townsend admits Scotland’s summer tour could come under threat from the coronavirus.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend feels fortunate that his side were able to get their matches against Italy and France played before virus took hold. Picture: SNS/SRU
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend feels fortunate that his side were able to get their matches against Italy and France played before virus took hold. Picture: SNS/SRU

The squad are set to fly out for two Tests against South Africa in early July before moving on to Dunedin to take on New Zealand.

After his side’s final Guinness Six Nations clash with Wales on Saturday was scrapped due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Townsend says there are no guarantees Scotland will be able to fulfil those dates against the Springboks.

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The head coach told BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme: “We’re hoping the virus’s peak comes and goes by then and we can get back to normal life. Hopefully that will be before the summer but obviously if it takes longer than that then (the summer tour) could be affected too.”

Wales bosses had insisted on Friday morning that their Championship finale against the Scots would go ahead, only to then change their mind a few hours later after thousands of Scotland supporters had arrived in Cardiff.

Townsend and his squad were on the way to Friday’s Captain’s Run at the Principality Stadium when they received the news that the clash with Wales was off.

But he is now expecting Scotland to complete their Six Nations duties on 31 October, along with the rest of the Super Saturday fixtures cancelled in response to the virus’s spread across Europe.

“Yes it was disappointing to see the game cancelled but it’s obviously all relevant with what else is happening throughout the rest of the world,” he said. “We were obviously lucky to get our game in Rome played just before the virus started to spread round the north of Italy.

“Perhaps looking back we were fortunate to get our game with France played too. If we’d have got the final one played that would have completed our season but we all know now that there won’t be much sport for a few weeks.

“I’ve now heard that late October is likely to be the date leading up to the November Tests. I did hear the summer getting mentioned as well but I imagine it will get pushed back to a later date when Ireland are looking to play their games. They’ve got two games remaining so it makes sense we all play that final round of fixtures on the 
same weekend.”

The shelved showdown with Wales was in keeping with a campaign that has not been short of incidents for Townsend’s team.

Close defeats by Ireland and England were followed by two more encouraging results as Italy and Grand Slam-chasing France were downed.

Talisman Finn Russell has been absent throughout all four games following a row with the head coach but Townsend hopes a peace pact can now be brokered. Asked if fresh talks with the Racing 92 star were planned, he said: “Yes of course. I’ll be speaking to everyone over the next few weeks trying to motivate them and see where they are and what they need to do to get on the summer tour.

“It’s been an interesting season when you think back to our last game at the World Cup when we had the typhoon coming through Tokyo and Yokohama. It’s been challenging circumstances but when I look back across the campaign I see a lot of positives.

“I saw a group that has really come together off the field. Young players like Rory Sutherland, Scott Cummings, Adam Hastings and Nick Haining came in for their Six Nations debuts against Ireland and have carried on some good form through the tournament.

“The defensive efforts have pleased me most. I think the guys are enjoying not having the ball, which doesn’t seem the right thing to say. But they are more confident knowing that if the opposition does go through a number of phases that we can get the ball back.”