Incoming Scotland coach Gregor Townsend turns down Lions role
By Michael Kelleher
Last Updated: 01/12/16 4:39pm
Incoming Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has declined an offer to join Warren Gatland’s coaching team for this summer’s British & Irish Lions tour.
Townsend, who is currently in charge of Glasgow Warriors, will succeed Vern Cotter at the end of the season and has informed Gatland he would rather concentrate on leading Scotland on their tour of Australia.
Gatland had hoped the 43-year-old Townsend would come on board as an attack coach but that role now appears likely to be filled by Rob Howley, who has been leading Wales while Gatland concentrates on preparing the Lions.
Townsend admitted he thought long and hard before turning down the Lions coaching offer.
Quoted on the Scottish Rugby Union website, Townsend said: "It's a case of timing. I feel hugely privileged to be given the Scotland job and our first opportunity to work with the players is at the same time as the Lions tour.
"I was approached a couple of weeks ago - and I was obviously flattered - but my priority now is Glasgow and at the end of the season Scotland are going on tour, so that's the priority then.
"I had a good think and didn't give an immediate answer. I really wanted to reflect on what was involved but I quickly realised that the Scotland tour to Australia is my number one priority at the end of this season.
"At international level you don't get that much access with the players. This is the most access you'll get with them. On a tour you get to work with them, preparing them and spending time with them, so that's the biggest factor."
Townsend follows in the footsteps of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, who informed Gatland he wanted to concentrate on taking charge of Ireland's tour of the USA and Japan rather than joining the Lions coaching staff.
A British & Irish Lions spokesperson said: "Gregor was offered a role with the Lions but for his own reasons decided not to take that up.
"We wish him all the best when he leads Scotland to Australia next June. We are confident that we will have the best available coaching team to secure a Test series victory in New Zealand."
Gatland will reveal his full coaching staff on Wednesday, with England's forwards coach Steve Borthwick and Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell expected to be named.