Speaking as he named his squad for the Six Nations Championship, Townsend confirmed he had been sounded out about a role with France but denied that he had been approached by Leicester Tigers. The head coach’s Scotland contract will expire after the Rugby World Cup and a report last week in the French press linked him with the France attack coach’s job, currently held by Laurent Labit. Townsend was also said to be on Leicester’s radar. Labit is due to join Stade Francais after the World Cup, while Leicester are on the hunt for a new permanent head coach after losing Steve Borthwick to England.
“I will be as honest as I can,” said Townsend. “I am in my last year of contract with Scotland. I did get a call from France to see if I would be interested. I said I was not prepared to go into any discussions until after the Six Nations. I have had no contact with Leicester. At all. People may want to get in contact with you or your agent because they know your contract is up and, yes, my contract is coming to an end at the end of the year.”
Asked if wanted to remain in the Scotland post he has held since 2017, Townsend said: “I love the job. I love the people I work with. I love the challenges we have. It is easy to say yes but that is not my decision.”
Townsend expects to discuss his future with Mark Dodson in the coming weeks and will find out whether he is still wanted by the Scottish Rugby chief executive. “From what I hear there will be no talks until either during the Six Nations or after the Six Nations. That is the feedback I have had,” said the coach. “I don’t get to decide whether I stay or not. At this point I would love to stay in the role because I enjoy the role but who knows what will change over the next few months.”
Asked if it was in the back of his mind that it could be his last Six Nations with Scotland, he replied: “Yes, absolutely.”
There has been speculation that Townsend could take a wider reaching role but he doused talk of a move upstairs into a director of rugby-type post at Murrayfield, something predecessors Jim Telfer and Ian McGeechan both did. “What I know is that I want to coach,” he said. “I enjoy coaching. Enjoy is a big word but it is something that has been a massive part of my life for ten to 15 years and I would like that to continue.”
Townsend, 49, will lead Scotland into the Six Nations for the sixth time when they open their campaign against England at Twickenham on February 4. He has named four uncapped players in his 40-man squad including the Bath wing Ruaridh McConnochie who has won two full caps for England but is able to switch allegiance through World Rugby’s new eligibility rules. The other three new faces are the Irish-born stand-off Ben Healy, Leicester lock forward Cameron Henderson and Glasgow Warriors centre Stafford McDowall. The latter two have been in Scotland squads before but have not been capped.