Gregor Townsend turns down British & Irish Lions coaching role

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend
Townsend will take over as Scotland head coach at the end of the season

Gregor Townsend has confirmed he turned down the opportunity to join the British and Irish Lions coaching staff for next year's New Zealand tour.

The Glasgow head coach will instead oversee Scotland's summer tour when he replaces Vern Cotter.

"It's a case of timing," said the 43-year-old.

"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."

Lions head coach Warren Gatland will announce his assistant coaches next Wednesday.

Rob Howley, who is in charge of Wales in 2016-17 while Gatland concentrates on the Lions, is highly likely to again be the 2017 Lions backs coach.

England forwards coach Steve Borthwick and Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell are set to also be part of the Lions' backroom team.

Asked if he had been approached to join Gatland's team, Townsend said: "Yeah, 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.

"To be approached was great and I'm sure Warren will talk about his coaching staff next week so I will leave him to talk about more details.

"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 of 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 on going on on tour."

Townsend, capped 82 times for Scotland, played in both wins over South Africa on the successful Lions tour of 1997.

And while he is looking forward to taking over the national side he hopes some of his star players will be absent.

"We had three Glasgow players on the last Lions tour, to get a similar number or more would be fantastic for us and Scottish rugby," he said.

"I want as many Scotland players as possible to be on tour with the Lions. It would be a brilliant experience, to learn from different coaches, to learn from different players and to take on the best team in world rugby."

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