London - Two days spent with Manchester City manager Pep
Guardiola has given Scotland's rugby coach Gregor Townsend some ideas which
could help him guide his country to their first ever Six Nations title.
Townsend, who was a member of the Scotland team that
clinched the last Five Nations crown in 1999, and his side laid down a marker
as serious contenders for the Six Nations with a thumping win over Australia
and a narrow defeat by world champions New Zealand last November.
The 44-year-old former flyhalf said Guardiola's passion had
made a big impression.
"The biggest thing about meeting Pep was seeing a coach
so passionate about the details of coaching," said Townsend, who was
speaking at the launch of the Six Nations which gets underway on February 3.
"It's about how to bring the best out of players, not
tactics and the bigger picture, more about the details of how he gets his game
over. He was so excited about it.
"He talked a lot about rugby as well, he loves rugby,
and how you have to look forward because we pass the ball back. That's a great
philosophy that he feels applies to football.
"As a coaching group we encourage each other to learn
from different sources."
Townsend, who gave Guardiola a signed Scotland jersey as a
sign of appreciation, said it had been an invaluable experience spending time
with the two-time Champions League winning coach, who has guided Manchester
City into a virtually unassailable 12-point lead in the Premier League this
"Hearing a coach that was so passionate about coaching
- probably the most successful coach in the game just now - it was great to
have that moment and connection with him," said Townsend.
"You always pick up things you can use specifically
when you visit a sporting organisation that is very successful and it could be
the facility, what they're doing in training.
"There were definitely transferable messages that he
likes to give to his players about off-the-ball effort, which is very important
to us as a rugby team."
Townsend, who took over the reins as head coach from New
Zealander Vern Cotter in June last year after a successful stint as Glasgow
Warriors boss, said it was an exciting time for the northern hemisphere
"When I played, the teams dominating were England and
France, and whoever sneaked in third had a chance," said Townsend.
"Now you have five teams in that mix. It's a very
competitive and high-quality tournament.
"It was a very good year for us, 2017. Three wins in
the Six Nations followed by Australia in the summer and in November, and a good
performance in New Zealand.
"It was a good year to generate that optimism and that
buzz for the game, and now in 2018 we have to build on that and to be better
than we were in November."
Scotland captain John Barclay, though, tried to calm
expectations and put the team's chances into perspective especially with a
tough away trip to Wales first up.
"It is flattering and I guess nice that people are
saying those things," said the 31-year-old Hong Kong-born back row
forward, who plays his club rugby for Welsh region Scarlets.
"But as I have said Ireland didn't lose a game last
November, England have only lost what one game in the last two years, Wales'
record in the Six Nations is impressive and France have a great record in this
season's Champions Cup.
"Yes we had a good year and it provides a great
template and base but ultimately we have to prepare well and train hard for it
is a brutal competition."