Gregor Townsend is adamant he’ll be Scotland head coach for the Rugby World Cup next year, but Stuart Hogg is not a certainty to still be captain.
Townsend, head coach since 2017 – and still with the best record of any Scotland head coach in the pro era – gave a firm “no” to a question whether he might not be in the job for the tournament in France, just 18 months away.
However he did not give an unequivocal endorsement on whether Hogg would still be skipper then.
‘Stuart is our captain just now’
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“Stuart is our captain just now. He led the team yesterday,” said Townsend on his return to Edinburgh. “It’s a long time until our next tournament.
“He’s been our captain for the last couple of years. We’ll have to reflect on everything. It’s not something we’re thinking about now as it’s a long while until we play our next game.”
Asked if it couldn’t be taken for granted that Hogg would be captain for Scotland next game, Townsend asked “can we move on to another question?”
There’s always the possibility that Hogg may no longer want the job. He was heard to say “I’ll not miss that” as he left a bad-tempered after-match press conference in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night.
The skipper was irritated by repeated questioning about the disciplinary breach in the Scotland camp in the week of the Ireland game. He and five other players had left the team camp for a bar in Edinburgh on Sunday night.
Hogg said he had apologised and that it would be “something that will hurt me for a long, long time”.
“As leader of this side I’m bitterly disappointed with what happened,” he said. “I’m annoyed, I’m frustrated but I can’t go back and change anything so the longer you dwell on it…if that’s what you’re after here you’re not going to get it.”
Wales was the low point
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On reflection, Townsend thought that Saturday’s game was the team’s best performance – despite the 26-5 defeat – and that the defeat in Wales was Scotland’s worst performance.
“Over the championship we have got better,” he said. “We were disappointed, really disappointed, at the performance in Wales.
“Clearly we have to learn as a group from these situations. We chased the game too early against France and made it easier for them in the second half.
“Against Italy it was a really solid display of game management and execution to score five tries.
“(In Dublin) the defence and attack was probably the best of the championship but we lost by twenty odd points because we were indisciplined and did not take the opportunities that came our way.
“Wales was probably the worst performance of the last 12 months. We had an opportunity to build on a weekend opening win but we were not good enough in that game.
“The fundamentals of our game were definitely in place in the France and Ireland games. We didn’t take our opportunities in those games and that’s just Test match rugby.
“We have to be in the fight with 20 minutes to go, we did that last year against France. Teams will play differently if you get into the last 20 minutes and you’ve got a chance or are ahead on the scoreboard.
France and Ireland ‘at a higher level’
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“France and Ireland are playing at a higher level just now than the other teams. That wasn’t the case last year, so we have to make sure next year we’re back to that level. You have to be at your very best to beat these teams.”
Senior players like Hogg and Finn Russell who were on the Lions Tour may be given the summer off. The Scots go to South America for three tests against Argentina plus, it’s believed, a game against surprise RWC candidates Chile.
“We’re going to have to be strong to take on the Pumas but we will look at giving players opportunities who deserve it,” said Townsend. “They might be players that haven’t been involved with us before.
“If someone comes into our squad who is uncapped or just has one or two caps, they are going to have to play really well. Someone like Rory Darge has shown that is possible.
“Let’s hope we have a full squad to select from. There are a few players that have been injured during the championship. Cam Redpath, Jamie Ritchie, Rory Sutherland, and Duhan (van der Merwe) obviously picked up his red card.
“When you come to the end of the season it’s likely you won’t have everybody. But I hope they’re available for the tour.”