Scottish Rugby has confirmed that Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend will replace Vern Cotter as Scotland head coach at the end of the 2016/17 season.
Townsend was one of the most gifted rugby union players of his generation, playing 82 times for Scotland and starring for the British and Irish Lions.
Cotter’s contract ends in June 2017 — the same time as Townsend’s current contract with Glasgow Warriors ends.
Townsend has been head coach at Guinness PRO12 side Glasgow Warriors since 2012, leading them to the play-offs in every season, culminating with his team becoming the first Scottish professional side to win the league title in 2015.
Already viewed as one of the best coaches in the northern hemisphere, Townsend has attracted interest from teams across Europe and the southern hemisphere, leading Scottish Rugby to move to secure his services through to 2020 as Scotland head coach.
Cotter started as Scotland head coach in the summer of 2014, starting with a summer tour which saw wins over Argentina, USA and Canada.
Cotter previously spent eight years at ASM Clermont Auvergne in the French Top 14 league.
“I am incredibly proud to take on the Scotland head coach role at the end of the season,” said Townsend.
“It is a real honour to be given the responsibility of coaching the national team and I look forward to working with such an impressive group of players.
“I’d like to thank Scottish Rugby for this opportunity and also the supporters, players and staff at Glasgow Warriors for their support over the past four years.
“My focus is firmly on the season ahead with Glasgow and I will be doing all I can to help the club continue to progress this year.”
Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson said: “Gregor’s abilities as a head coach are evident and he is increasingly becoming one of the most sought after coaches in the game.
“I have been charged with developing Scottish coaches and believe the time is now right to secure Gregor’s talents, as we build towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“Vern Cotter has made a considerable impact on the development of the Scotland national side during his tenure. His rugby philosophy of setting high standards with a big emphasis on skill development has had a positive effect throughout Scottish rugby.
“He has helped instil self-belief, determination and put a lot of pride into the jersey for players and fans alike and for this, both myself, and Scottish Rugby would like to thank him for this significant contribution to the game in Scotland.
“We will continue to work with Vern in the season ahead as we are both determined to have a successful autumn test series and 2017 RBS 6 Nations.
“He has worked to bring out the best in our Scottish players and secured some notable victories along the way.
“No-one will forget our Rugby World Cup 2015 journey as Vern led the team to the quarter-finals and so nearly a semi-final.
“However the board and I now believe the time is right to take the development of the national team forward with Gregor.
“Gregor’s playing record as a Scotland internationalist and British Lion showed he is a man of vision and great professionalism, which he has since successfully transferred into his coaching roles, firstly with Scotland and subsequently Glasgow Warriors.
“It is these factors which I feel will enable Scotland to continue its forward momentum, building on the strong foundations laid by Vern, with the current group of players and future Scotland internationals.”
Cotter said: “Since taking up this role I believe we have moved forward as a group by working to execute the simple things well. Developing skillsets and mindsets has been important to help perform on the international stage.
“The focus has been to respect tradition but also perform in the present, be adaptive and innovative. I have been really pleased with the progress that has been made in all areas.
“The players, and my management group, have enjoyed working hard to give the fans and Scottish Rugby results and performances to be proud of.
“I intend to remain focused on the upcoming Autumn Internationals and remaining Scotland matches in 2017.”