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Gregor Townsend: External investment in pro clubs can help Scotland

Published 29/09/2016

Gregor Townsend has welcomed plans for external investment
Gregor Townsend has welcomed plans for external investment

Gregor Townsend believes external investment in Scotland's professional clubs can help the national team - and would only be accepted under such terms.

The Scottish Rugby Union has asked members for a mandate to seek private funding for Glasgow and Edinburgh, with a meeting set for October 28.

Central ownership of the clubs has ensured a holistic approach to Scottish rugby, with both Warriors and the capital club serving the needs of the national team, not just in developing homegrown talent but also by importing overseas players who subsequently qualified for Scotland, such as Dutch-born Tim Visser.

But Warriors head coach Townsend, who takes over the Scotland job at the end of the season, feels private finance can build on that joined-up thinking rather than dilute it.

"It would have to be in line with the aims of the national team, just like we are in line," he said.

"We have to rest our players at certain times, most of our players are Scottish so we have to have one eye on making sure we deliver better players for the national team.

"Any investment or future change of ownership would have to have that at the heart, and I'm sure that's what Scottish Rugby will want.

"We have a really good situation in that we have two pro teams and they are 45 miles apart. So we can get a lot of cohesion between both teams and the national team. So it is important we have a lot of Scottish players based at Glasgow and Edinburgh.

"But we have also been very fortunate that some of our foreign players have really made a difference, I'm thinking of Fijian players and now a couple of Italian players who are doing very well.

"And then there are players like Josh Strauss and WP Nel at Edinburgh, who have come over and through residency qualified for Scotland. Any future arrangement has to have a mix.

"I think it's really positive news. We have to look at as many options as possible to keep the success of Glasgow going."

Townsend believes the money could be vital in keeping Scottish players such as Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Ryan Grant, Jonny Gray and Henry Pyrgos in Glasgow.

"We need to make sure we offer them competitive contracts so they will stay," he said.

"They love being here, they love the fact we are competing with the best teams in Europe, they get managed really well playing in Scotland because we have one eye on the international set-up.

"Extra finance will help that and I'm sure that's the big reason why Scottish Rugby have called this meeting.

"If you get more finance, there's a lot more things you can do, whether it's increasing your squad size, holding on to your players or bringing in players that will give you an extra edge in bigger games.

"We have a really strong squad, we are very lucky with the support we get from Scottish Rugby. We have 34 internationals. A lot of them are Scottish players and that's a big reason why we exist, to give our players the opportunity to play against the best teams and prepare to be better international players.

"But the other reason to exist is to have success and to grow. We have done well in the PRO12 and we have to take that to the next level and do well in Europe."

Scotland internationals Peter Murchie, Rob Harley, Strauss and Alex Allan return to the starting line-up for Glasgow's trip to Newport to face Dragons on Friday night, while former All Black hooker Corey Flynn makes his first start of the season.

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