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Ex-England player bemused by SRU's 'proper team' Scotland gamble

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Former England out-half Andy Goode can’t fathom why the SRU have yet to offer Gregor Townsend a contract extension given how great the future now looks for Scotland. The head coach, who has been in charge since 2017, is currently enjoying his best period as the Test team boss.

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He led the Scots to back-to-back opening round Six Nations wins over England and Wales for the first time since the 1996 Five Nations and his team then showed commendable defiance in their comeback from a perilous 0-19 deficit to make France sweat in Paris last Sunday before Les Bleus confirmed their 21-32 win with a last-gasp try.

Scotland next host Ireland in Edinburgh on March 12 knowing that win would clinch a first Triple Crown since 1990, yet there is no guarantee that Townsend will be in charge beyond the end of this year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

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Despite speculation of a move elsewhere, namely to the Top 14, the SRU haven’t yet offered Townsend a contract extension to carry on leading Scotland in 2024 and the situation has perplexed ex-England half-back Goode.

Speaking on this week’s Rugby Pod about the curious standoff between the Scottish union and its head coach, Goode said: “It’s interesting, Gregor has come out and said Scotland haven’t offered him a contract yet.

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“They are in the best position they have ever been in and how the SRU haven’t extended his contract, yet I have got no idea because everything is looking great for Scotland moving forward in terms of the players, the way they are playing, their understanding, the relationships, everything that Gregor has created. It needs to continue but watch this space as to what happens.

“You don’t want that plucky loser tag but as the French said, that is the best Scotland team that has ever come across to Paris. I’m looking at it and thinking Ireland go up to Scotland next week, that is a tougher game for Ireland than England in the last one, the Grand Slam decider potentially for them.

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“You could see Scotland performing and putting Ireland under a lot of heat and potentially beating Ireland because of their performances. This Scotland team is a proper team… they are a damn good team and the unfortunate thing for Scotland is the madness of the World Cup draw when it was three years ago because they have got Ireland and South Africa. If they were drawing a World Cup now, they are fifth in the world so they are a proper team.”

Goode also gave praise to the influence currently wielded at out-half by Finn Russell. “Finn is a class player. People have used the term maverick before – I’m guilty of using it. I look at some of his game and it’s maverick-like but he has educated himself and works exceptionally hard off the field at how to manipulate defences.

“From what you hear he spends hours watching footage… he is world-class, there is no two ways about it. He is a phenomenal player and the frustrating thing was I was watching that and was desperate for Scotland to win. It was enthralling.

“Scotland had so many opportunities but that top tier of international rugby is about taking those one or two opportunities and the difference was that lineout that went awry which could have gotten the win. Conversely, France scored at the end with a bit of power from a similar lineout.”

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