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Gregor Townsend to take over as new Scotland coach from June 2017

Published 17/08/2016

Gregor Townsend will be the next Scotland head coach
Gregor Townsend will be the next Scotland head coach

The Scottish Rugby Union has moved to stop Gregor Townsend being poached by naming him as Scotland's next head coach almost a year before Vern Cotter's contract expires.

The Glasgow head coach will become Scotland's first homegrown leader in eight years when he takes charge in June 2017.

The 43-year-old dismissed a link with Harlequins in April but SRU chief executive Mark Dodson admitted he was " increasingly becoming one of the most sought-after coaches in the game", prompting the board to take the decision to tell Cotter his three-year contract would not be renewed.

Former British and Irish Lion Townsend fulfils all the criteria with his international experience and coaching success. The 82-times capped Scotland international spent three years on the national team's coaching staff before replacing Sean Lineen at Glasgow in 2012.

He has led Warriors to the Guinness Pro12 play-offs in all four seasons and guided them to their first title in 2015.

"We have been planning this for some time," Dodson said in an interview on the Scottish Rugby YouTube channel.

"The market for outstanding coaches in the world has changed and the reason we are going this early is to make sure that we are able to secure the talents of Gregor, and also to make sure there's a transition in place that benefits the Scottish team as a whole.

"He's an outstanding coach and he's in demand across the world."

Townsend will become the first Scot to take charge since Frank Hadden, following stints from former England manager Andy Robinson and Australians Scott Johnson and Cotter.

Dodson said: "He's the first Scottish coach of his generation that has the ability to become the Scotland head coach.

"He has been nurtured here through Scottish Rugby over the last five years through the success he has had at Glasgow, winning the Pro12 title but also making Glasgow Warriors an outstanding and competitive team.

"We feel this is the right time for him to join us between the World Cup cycles and take us to Japan and beyond."

There is little doubt Cotter has improved Scotland and his success included last year's World Cup, when only a wrongly-awarded late penalty prevented them beating Australia in the quarter-finals. He also led them to two Test wins over Argentina but has won just two out of 10 RBS 6 Nations games, although both were this year.

Dodson said: "Vern has done a magnificent job. He's put some real starch into the team. I think he's done the simple things well and re-emphasised the basics and the skillsets, and developed the team as a whole.

"You can see the team has a stronger shape and plays in a characteristic fashion that people enjoy and respond to. And I'm sure Gregor can build on that."

In a statement, the former Northampton, Castres, Brive, Montpellier, Natal Sharks and Border Reivers centre said: "I am incredibly proud to take on the Scotland head coach role at the end of the season. It is a real honour to be given the responsibility of coaching the national team and I look forward to working with such an impressive group of players."

Both coaches were keen to stress their focus would remain on their current roles for the upcoming season.

Cotter, 54, added: "Since taking up this role I believe we have moved forward as a group by working to execute the simple things well. Developing skillsets and mindsets has been important to help perform on the international stage.

"The focus has been to respect tradition but also perform in the present, be adaptive and innovative. I have been really pleased with the progress that has been made in all areas."

Meanwhile, Dodson had words of comfort for Warriors supporters who will no doubt have mixed emotions over the news.

He added: "I want to reassure the Glasgow Warriors fans that we are looking to bring in the finest possible replacement we can for Gregor to make sure the Glasgow Warriors story goes from strength to strength."

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