April 12, 2024

Gregor Townsend: Scottish rugby ‘still has confidence’ in its head coach

Scotland finished fourth in the 2024 Six Nations with two wins

Scottish Rugby is confident Gregor Townsend can improve the national team’s Six Nations performance but this year’s campaign was “not good enough”, says chairman John McGuigan.

Scotland finished fourth in the 2024 competition with two wins – against England and Wales – from five matches.

Townsend, who has been head coach for seven years, is under contract until 2026.

“We’ve been around third and fourth in the Six Nations,” McGuigan said.

“And from that point of view, we have to take our position to the next level from there.

“We still have confidence in Gregor that he can do it, that he has the right technical staff, that he has the right team and that we have to get started on that now. We think that is the right thing to do .” “

Scotland have never won four or more games in a Six Nations tournament, recording three wins from five games in four of Townsend’s seven campaigns.

McGuigan, who took over the reins of Scottish Rugby Limited last summer, believes there is room for improvement in results but pushed back on suggestions that Scotland’s failure to win a trophy was down to poor attitudes .

“Talking as a fan: not good enough,” he added. “We should have done much better. Nobody is happy with fourth place in the Six Nations.

“We definitely went into it with the idea that we could win or come second. So to come out fourth is a disappointment overall.

“[But I want] to put to bed some of the nonsense about whether people are focused enough.

“I think coaches, players, support staff… everyone wants Scotland to do better than they are doing at the moment and that commitment is absolutely visible on a daily basis.

“In terms of mentality, I think it’s good. In terms of results, we have to continuously work on it, because that was not a good tournament for us.”

In a briefing with the media, the Scottish Rugby chairman also discussed other areas including:

  • Completion of the appointment of a new CEO to replace Mark Dodson by the first week of May, quickly followed by a new performance director, with Jim Mallinder also due to leave in the summer
  • His aim to increase Scottish Rugby’s revenues by more than £30 million to £100 million over the next few years, with the governing body losing more than £10 million last year
  • The mission to transform the negative perception of the governing body among some fans and grassroots clubs
  • His belief that Scottish Rugby needs to “improve our performance” as a company

BBC Scotland has outlined some of McGuigan’s responses to key issues.

Appointment of a new general manager

JM: “Then Mark [Dodson] recovers from his illness, he will not come back. On a temporary basis I will be attending the Six Nations and World Rugby meetings and the executive team will take on the burden in terms of what needs to happen between now and the CEO’s arrival. Mark will not return to work for Scottish Rugby.

‘We only have a shortlist of five. I have one person on that list who could start in May, and three people who have three months.” [notice]. So you are talking about someone who will start immediately or in the summer.

“I want the CEO to meet the performance director [prior to the latter appointment being finalised] to make sure the chemistry between those two people is good.”

The search for a performance director

JM: “There are not many people who want to become directors. So you’re talking about a handful of people.

“You have some people who are entry-level performance directors – who want to cut their teeth and develop their skills, you have two or three other people who are established, high performers and really know what they are doing. We It’s the last two or three people who have to decide which way we go.

“I want the CEO to run the business and I want the performance director to run the rugby, and those two things intersect at certain points.

“If I had to name two priorities, for me it would be the performance director who must ensure that the process really works. My biggest frustration at the moment is that we have a glaring gap in terms of our ability to develop players and we need to sort that out.

“And the CEO’s job is to work with me and the board to manage the cost base, but most importantly to drive greater commercial success for the company and grow revenue.”

Scottish Rugby Chairman John McGuigan at the SRU AGM event at the Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium, on November 18, 2023
John McGuigan was appointed chairman of Scottish Rugby’s operations arm last summer

The urge for more money

Scottish Rugby raised just over £68 million last year, a record amount. However, the organization was still losing money and McGuigan says it needs to do more to take turnover above £100m.

JM: “This is what we need to succeed, otherwise there will be constant cuts and compromises. Is that the game we want to play in? That can’t be the case. We are here to be ambitious, expansive and the best nation we can be.

‘I don’t know of any other country that has done this just to reduce costs. We have to find the income to do that.

“The Nations Cup is another potential revenue stream, how we develop the stadium, how we develop our commercial work harder than we are doing now. We need to do a lot more on the commercial side.

“It is an ambition to reach £100m from where we are now, but that won’t happen in one leap. But we have to get there to have a company that can continue to perform.

“Where we can have the expectations that we all want when it comes to winning things, having successful professional teams, supporting women’s rugby, making sure we have the right pathways and the best coaches – that’s where we have £100 million.”

Townsend conducts Six Nations investigation

McGuigan explained that Townsend is conducting a review of his side’s Six Nations performance, with input from outgoing performance director Jim Mallinder. This will be submitted to the Scottish Rugby board.

The chairman also addressed accusations that Scotland’s head coach is marking his own performances as a result.

JM: “The alternative to this is that you call in someone from outside. We’re in the middle of a timing situation.

“There will be plenty of opportunity when the new performance director comes in to look at the Six Nations again and learn the lessons from it. So the most important thing is to record everything and then the person coming in will see that. ” and that will be something to work from.

“I’m sure the person coming in will be quite aware of where the focus should be.”

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