Townsend’s future to be discussed after improving Scotland finish in style

Gregor Townsend hinted he could be about to extend his reign as Scotland head coach after his side ended an encouraging Guinness Six Nations campaign with a bonus-point 26-14 win over Italy.

The 49-year-old, who is out of contract after the World Cup later this year, said in January it may be his last tilt at the Six Nations, as he had held no talks with the Scottish Rugby Union about his future.

However, when asked about his own position after the Italy game, which all but secured third place in the tournament, he revealed there have now been conversations and that he expects some clarity “soon”.

Scotland v Italy – Guinness Six Nations – BT Murrayfield Stadium
Scotland’s Blair Kinghorn on his way to his hat-trick (Andrew Milligan, PA)

“I’ve had initial conversations the last couple of weeks, but it’s about getting some time over the next few weeks to have a bigger chat about it in more depth,” he said.

“The focus last two weeks has been these games. After a few days off I’m sure these conversations will start up again.

“I’ve indicated I need some time to think about it, especially when the tournament was in full flow. I’ll have some reflecting and time off and I’m sure the discussions will start again soon.”

Asked if he wanted to stay on, Townsend – who has been linked with other vacancies in recent months – said: “Yes, at this stage, but it’s not the time to be answering these questions. When you’re just off a victory, the crowd are behind the team and you’re connected with the players, of course it’s a great feeling, but I don’t want to commit to anything right now.

“There’s conversations that have started and I imagine they will start up again after some time off. Those weren’t happening a few months ago so we’ll see how they develop.

“Honestly, I’ve tried to put this to the side. Your brain has only so much capacity on one thing and that for me is to do the best I can as the team’s coach.”

Scotland v Italy – Guinness Six Nations – BT Murrayfield Stadium
Scotland’s Jamie Ritchie is presented with the Cuttitta Cup by the Princess Royal (Andrew Milligan, PA)

Blair Kinghorn scored a hat-trick of tries as he rose to the challenge of replacing Finn Russell at stand-off.

The versatile Edinburgh back went over the line either side of half-time to add to an earlier touchdown by Duhan Van Der Merwe. He then completed the scoring in the last moment of a hard-fought game.

Captain Jamie Ritchie was pleased his side ended the tournament on a high note, holding off a late Italian fightback to secure a third win from their five matches for the first time since 2018.

“Italy have deserved more from this tournament, they’ve played a lot of good rugby and they put us under huge amounts of pressure so I’m delighted we won that,” he said.
“Before the tournament, I said I wanted five good performances; we got four and a half. Today was a tough one, it was a solid performance. We dug it out, and we did well in the end. We’re third behind the two top teams in the world and that’s a positive.”