Scotland rugby coach Gregor Townsend hailed an enjoyable Shetland Sports Awards ceremony while delivering a coaching session to dozens of youngsters – where he was impressed with the fine handling skills on display.
The former stand-off, who famously scored in every match of the 1999 Five Nations, visited the 60:40 pitch at Clickimin Leisure Complex this morning (Saturday) to put the children through their paces in a one-hour session.
Last night he was the special guest at the 11th annual sports awards event held in the Bowls Hall at the Clickimin. He presented shooter John Magnus Laurenson with the Sportsperson of the Year award.
This morning he revealed his thoughts on the ceremony – and went on to answer questions about his own distinguished career.
“It was an enjoyable night,” he said. “It was great to come here first of all – I’ve never been up in Shetland – and you could tell it was a big night in the calendar [with] so many people there.
“There was a real community spirit as well. Whenever anybody won an award there was genuine congratulations. It showed that a lot has been achieved in the last 12 months”.
Working with three different age groups on the 60:40 arena’s artificial turf, Townsend looked to instil the basic techniques required for success in his sport – and he was very pleased with what he saw.
“With the older kids we did a couple of drills that we do with Glasgow and Scotland – their handling was very good,” said the Borderer, who coached Glasgow Warriors for five years before taking up the national job, guiding them to the Pro 12 title in 2015.
Fresh off the back of a stellar Autumn test campaign – featuring wins against Samoa and Australia and a closely fought battle against world champions New Zealand – Townsend was full of praise for the national squad and the fans who cheered them on.
“We were really impressed with how our players performed,” he said. “We loved the atmospheres at Murrayfield. Three sell-outs was amazing and the atmosphere in the New Zealand and Australia games were incredible.
“It was brilliant to finish on a high, finish with such a big win against Australia. It should give us a lot of confidence going into the Six Nations,” he added.
Asked to pick out his favourite moment from his own playing days, which spanned 82 national caps and two test appearances for the British and Irish Lions, as well as club spells in France, South Africa, England and the Borders, he highlighted a passage of free-flowing rugby exhibited by himself and his teammates en route to winning the last-ever Five Nations.
“There was a 40-minute period where Scotland played France in 1999 when we were just all in the zone,” he said. “We just had confidence about taking on the opposition, each teammate knew what the other one was going to do.
“There was a flow about what we did and we scored five tries in 40 minutes. You don’t get those situations very often as a rugby player – and especially as a rugby team – so if we could’ve had that for a few more games it would’ve been even better.”
His advice for young athletes is to try out several sports so they can have a better chance of finding the one they love. The hard work needed to improve is a bit easier, he said, if you have a passion for what you are doing.
He added: “For me rugby is the best sport because you get a chance to run, pass, tackle, but also you get the chance to work with the team and it’s a very team-orientated sport so you can have lots of fun playing rugby.”