June International Tours

Townsend concerns over Scotland’s future

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Gregor Townsend believes Scotland have scant chance of making progress as an international side under a two-team professional set-up.

The former Scotland fly-half retired on Saturday after captaining Borders in their last match before closure.

Glasgow Warriors, who are run by the Scottish Rugby Union, and Edinburgh Rugby, who became a franchise this season, continue to function on a professional basis.

However Borders bit the dust after a 24-16 defeat to the Ospreys, who clinched the Magners League title at Netherdale.

Capped 82 times by Scotland, 34-year-old Townsend regrets the SRU moving in March to shut down Borders.

“Obviously it was their decision to cut a third team and to disband us, but who’s to blame? Who knows?” Townsend told BBC Radio Scotland.

“The product has not worked across the board in Scotland … professional rugby, the crowds aren’t great.

“I think it’s a cultural thing that we haven’t got into professional rugby as a nation, as a union, like the Irish have and the Welsh are now doing.

“But I do think that three teams is the minimum necessity if we’re going to have a successful international side, so I really hope that one day there’ll be a third team.

“Fingers crossed it will happen next season, somewhere else in Scotland.”

Considering Scotland finished bottom of the recent Six Nations Championship, their stock can fall little further, however an extended spell of mediocrity could leave the national team lagging well behind their northern hemisphere rivals.

Townsend, who will begin a new role with the Scottish Institute of Sport Foundation later this year, urged the SRU to look at the example set by their Welsh counterparts.

Having witnessed a Welsh club side savour a title-winning campaign last night, Townsend said: “Wales now have got four teams, and a year ago people at the SRU were saying, ‘We’re looking for four teams’.

“So there are financial issues at the Union, but for me if there are financial problems it’s a priority that we try to save professional rugby, because that’s the only way you’ll make international rugby work.”

Like most involved at Borders, Townsend was vigorously opposed to the closure.

The club’s contracted players will find new homes with the Glasgow Warriors, and Townsend’s objection to the SRU’s decision is based on his concern for its impact on the local and national game.

“Of course it was the wrong decision,” he stressed.

After several heavy recent defeats, the Borders’ final match at least saw Steve Bates’ team sign off on a positive note.

Bates will move to Newcastle, another loss to the Scottish game.

“I was really proud of the guys’ effort. At one stage, with about five minutes to go, we were five points behind,” Townsend said.

“Ospreys obviously went on to win and won the title but we gave them a fright and the guys really stuck in.”

 

365 Digital

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