September 10, 2019 / 5:02 AM / 12 days ago

Rugby-Scotland playing it fast and loose under Townsend

Sept 10 (Reuters) - As the architect of the “Toonie Flip”, a moment of genius that earned Scotland a stunning win in Paris almost 25 years ago, it is no surprise Gregor Townsend has brought flair and spontaneity to the side since taking over as coach in 2017.

The former flyhalf arrived from Glasgow Warriors with the aim of playing the fastest brand of rugby on the planet and while the wheels have come off now and again, there can be no denying Scotland are speeding in the right direction.

The fact that few pine for his popular predecessor Vern Cotter, who guided the side to their highest ever world ranking of fifth just months before “Toonie” took over, is an indicator of the Galashiels man’s success.

Townsend’s philosophy has been heavily influenced by Australian rugby, to such an extent that he even considered naming his son after his idol David Campese.

A true student of the game, Townsend broadened his understanding of it by playing for teams in Australia, England, France and South Africa as well as his native Scotland.

Always capable of a match-winning moment of magic, his glorious reverse pass to put a galloping Gavin Hastings through the heart of the French defence and give Scotland their first win in France for 26 years in 1995 has earned its own nickname — ‘The Toonie Flip’.

As a player he was ahead of his time, often thinking two moves ahead of his team mates. As a consequence he was left carrying the can when moves broke down.

Yet it is perhaps those frustrations as a mercurial playmaker that make him such an accommodating coach for the likes of swashbuckling No. 10 Finn Russell and electric full back Stuart Hogg.

Described as detail-oriented and cerebral, Townsend is unlikely to replicate the kind of brutal training environment espoused by his predecessor Cotter, who came under fire from an animal rights group after a player said they had to kill rabbits as part of a survival course ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

Townsend is more carrot, less stick.

“Most of what I’ve learned and what I apply as a coach now are things that I learned after my rugby career,” he told World Rugby after becoming the coach of Glasgow.

“The rugby knowledge is great to have but it’s more how you work with people and the coaching knowledge that drives what you do every day.”

Editing by Toby Davis

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