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Six Nations: Have Scotland improved in Gregor Townsend’s 1000 days in charge?


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Six Nations: Have Scotland improved in Gregor Townsend’s 1000 days in charge?

Gregor Townsend replaced Vern Cotter in 2017Six Nations: Ireland v ScotlandVenue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 1 February Kick-off: 16:45 GMTCoverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio 5 live extra & online; text commentary on BBC Sport website & appScotland’s Six Nations opener against Ireland will fall on the 1000th day of Gregor Townsend’s…

Six Nations: Have Scotland improved in Gregor Townsend’s 1000 days in charge?

Gregor Townsend replaced Vern Cotter in 2017

Gregor Townsend replaced Vern Cotter in 2017
Six Nations: Ireland v Scotland
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 1 February Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio 5 live extra & online; text commentary on BBC Sport website & app

Scotland’s Six Nations opener against Ireland will fall on the 1000th day of Gregor Townsend’s reign as head coach.

It has been a turbulent few months for the 46-year-old, with a disappointing Six Nations in 2019 followed by an abject World Cup, and the exile of Finn Russell.

But how does Townsend’s record stand up when compared to those of his predecessors?

Marginal improvements

A comparison with Scotland’s most recent head coaches suggests Townsend’s time in charge has been successful. Not only is his overall win record of 55% marginally better than predecessor Vern Cotter’s 53%, but it also bests the four men that came before the New Zealander, too.

In fact, you’d need to go back to Ian McGeechan’s reign from 2000 to 2003 to find a head coach with a better win percentage.

However, when we take non-competitive games out of that tally, Townsend’s win percentage drops to 43% – still above Cotter’s 42% but it doesn’t suggest a huge improvement upon what he inherited.

Similarly, under the incumbent’s stewardship Scotland have scored on average 24 points per game but also conceded 22. Again, this is a minor improvement on Cotter’s tenure, which showed an average of 26 points scored and shipped in every Test.

The improvements are undoubtedly there, but whether their incremental nature has been enough for fans to notice is something else entirely.

The Six Nations yardstick

Where any notable Scotland improvements under Townsend may be most evident is in the Six Nations over the last two years.

Although a disappointing World Cup may still be fresh in the memory, it’s worth noting that Scotland’s record against their European rivals has improved in recent years.

Even if we exclude the new bonus points rules that were introduced in 2017, Scotland still finished with 12 points in 2018 and six the following year.

On average, Townsend has reaped nine per campaign compared to Cotter’s 5.3, Scott Johnson’s three and Andy Robinson’s 2.5.

‘I think Townsend is under pressure’

Former Glasgow Warriors and Scotland international Colin Gregor

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After not getting out of the group in the World Cup for only the second time ever, there’s a bit of soul searching being done. Given other things that have been going on with Scottish rugby – the way the World Cup ended with the typhoon issues and the negative publicity around the chief executive’s pay, then this thing with Finn Russell this week – there’s a lot of pressure on Gregor and the team.

I think if you go on the recent results, there’s been a bit of a stagnation. Maybe it’s unrealistic to think that we could continue progressing as we had done under Vern Cotter because everyone has limits. Vern had taken them on a real steep progression and you hoped that Gregor would at least continue that.

It’s almost like getting up to the 90-95% is the easy bit but the final 5-10% at the top is going to be really difficult.

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