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Gregor Townsend hopes Scotland can rearrange South Africa and New Zealand Tests

Scotland’s November Tests against the All Blacks, Argentina and Japan are also in doubt.

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Gregor Townsend is hoping for some Scotland games later this year (PA)

Gregor Townsend is hoping for some Scotland games later this year (PA)

Gregor Townsend is hoping for some Scotland games later this year (PA)

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend is hopeful a substantial alternative international schedule will emerge for later in the year after admitting their summer tour is “highly unlikely” to take place.

Townsend’s side are due to take on South Africa and New Zealand next month but, with a return to training for their players some weeks away, their tour looks certain to be called off.

Scotland’s November Tests against the All Blacks, Argentina and Japan are also in doubt after sport was effectively suspended amid the coronavirus outbreak 24 hours before Townsend’s men were due to face Wales in their final Guinness Six Nations match.

The Scotland boss said: “To take on South Africa in a two-match Test series doesn’t come around very often. The fact they are world champions made it even more special.

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Scotland are due to play World Cup winners South Africa (PA)

Scotland are due to play World Cup winners South Africa (PA)

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Scotland are due to play World Cup winners South Africa (PA)

“To go on from those two games to play New Zealand, who we’ve not played away from home since 2000, would have made it the best, toughest, most challenging tour I can ever remember. I know our players would be better for the experience.

“It’s unlikely we’ll have that experience now. Maybe later in the year we’ll still be able to play some if not all those games, but we’ll see.

“It’s disappointing but it pales into insignificance when we see what the virus has done to people and different industries around the world.”

When asked about potential rearrangements, he said: “I know something came from South Africa that if the tour doesn’t happen in July, which we all believe is highly unlikely, then maybe that can go ahead in October.

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New Zealand and Scotland are due to play each other twice this year (PA)

New Zealand and Scotland are due to play each other twice this year (PA)

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New Zealand and Scotland are due to play each other twice this year (PA)

“We hope from a coaches’ perspective that we still get to play South Africa and New Zealand. Obviously New Zealand is one of our fixtures in November, but we know both matches might not happen.

“It might be we have to play other teams in the UK and Ireland and other Six Nations teams.

“There might still be restrictions on travel, New Zealand has a 14-day quarantine, similar to what we are introducing.  There is a lot that will have to change over the next few weeks and months for us to play those games.”

Scotland were on their way to train at the Principality Stadium on March 13 when their Six Nations game was called off amid an outcry at the prospect of 75,000 fans gathering in Cardiff.

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Scotland were on their way to the Principality Stadium when their game was called off (PA)

Scotland were on their way to the Principality Stadium when their game was called off (PA)

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Scotland were on their way to the Principality Stadium when their game was called off (PA)

“It was literally on the bus that we found out,” Townsend said. “When you look back, you think it was obviously the right decision when lockdown came a few days later and it would have been just us playing that weekend.

“Our under-20s got to play that evening and it was the last game of rugby or football in the UK. It was a strange time, a real shame we got close to playing but we understand the reasons it got called off.

“The fact we have only got one game in the Six Nations, you would think they would be able to find a weekend to play that. I know Ireland have two games to play but it’s not like a league situation where you have a dozen games.

“It would be good to decide the Six Nations final places. And it has happened before, in 2001 Ireland had three games to play, one of which was at BT Murrayfield, and those games were played.

“But we are still in the dark about when we can come back to rugby. If everything goes smoothly over the next few weeks, I am sure we will be able to play that game, play our November tests, and maybe play our summer tour, whether in July or a later date, and that’s what we are hoping.”

PA