Glasgow Warriors coach Townsend tells Pro12 sides to 'get on with it' in face of growing Anglo-French wealth
The television deals for the Pro12 work out at around €1.2m per side, compared with €4.1m in England and more than €5.8m in France, but Gregor Townsend, who takes charge of Glasgow for a fifth and final season before succeeding Vern Cotter, says the cross-border league has always been financially disadvantaged.
"France and England have had more money thanks to the deals their greater populations generate," said Townsend, whose playing career in four countries included stints in the Premiership and Top 14. "We have to get on with it in the Pro12 and what we have is a tournament high on quality, helped by the fact there is no relegation.
"There is more interest than ever before and its profile has never been higher. The arrow is definitely pointing upwards and we have to make sure we keep improving. It is a unique tournament involving 12 teams from four countries and more current internationals play in it than the Premiership or Top 14.
"If the other two leagues have more money, players in the Pro12 are highly motivated to play international rugby: playing for Glasgow and Edinburgh, for example, helps them achieve that goal. You can only be positive when you recall what the old Celtic League was like. The Scottish sides struggled to get crowds but now there is growth and the final is played in a national stadium."
Glasgow start their campaign at Connacht on Saturday, the 2015 champions travelling to the team who took their crown in May. Townsend, who won 82 caps for Scotland, is determined to sign off on a high, saying that until a few months ago he had no immediate ambition to coach the national side. "I spent a few years as an assistant Scotland coach [2009-'12] and while it was wonderful to be involved with the team, I have enjoyed coaching Glasgow and having the opportunity to be head coach" he said.
"It was only a couple of months ago that I started thinking how great it would be to be involved with Scotland, even if I thought that day would be well into the future. I am delighted and honoured that the opportunity has come sooner but there is much for me to do before then. Coaching in the Pro12 is so intense you do not have time to think about anything else. We have to improve at Glasgow because we did not get to a final last season.
"I am very optimistic about the future of Scottish rugby at Pro12, European and international level. It is the best player pool I have known and while it is as hard to hold on to players as it was five, 10 or 15 years ago, the lure of Test rugby is important and Scotland players know if they are based in the country, they are managed better. Part of our reason for being at Glasgow is to make sure the national side is as strong as possible."
Townsend has been tipped as a candidate for the attack coach position on next summer's Lions tour to New Zealand which comes 20 years after, as flyhalf, he helped achieve a series victory in South Africa.
"That is a hypothetical question," he said, when asked if he would be interested. "It will be some tour to face the best team in the world who are playing fantastic rugby."
Sunday Indo Sport