Rugby legend Jim Telfer has called for a third professional team to be created in Scotland.

He believes it is urgently needed to ensure young players have a pathway to the top otherwise the national side will struggle to remain competitive.

The former Scotland captain who was head coach for the 1984 Grand Slam, the 1999 Five Nations championship win, and assistant to Ian McGeechan for the 1990 Grand Slam as well as the 1997 British and Irish Lions series victory over South Africa, thinks Scottish Rugby running just Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors isn’t enough.

In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Scotland Rugby News at his home in Galashiels he made clear he felt the governing body is “too central belt focused” and places like Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee and Perth were being neglected.

"Scotland can’t sustain a top-level international side with just two professional clubs to feed off as the player base is too narrow," said Telfer.

"I worry about where the young players will get their chance to progress in Scotland without a third professional team.

"I know money is a problem as we tried to run four professional teams when I was at the SRU but it didn’t work financially but times have changed and there is a real need for one. The SRU has to at least try and make an effort to set up a third team, find the money from somewhere.

“I wouldn’t set it up in the Borders as they had their chance when the Border Reivers was in existence but the area never bought into it. 

"I would put a third pro team somewhere above the central belt, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Perth, who knows, but there is a desperate need for a third professional team as these areas are being neglected. 


"If I were a volunteer or working in some areas of Scotland just now I would be thinking 'why am I bothering, where is the support?'"

'Gap between Scotland and the rest' at under-20 level

Telfer’s call for Scottish Rugby to set up a third team comes off the back of his concern over the Scotland Under-20 team following their Six Nations age-grade campaign. 

The team, under head coach Kenny Murray, lost all fve of their matches and finished bottom of the table.

“I watched every single one of their matches and the others involving other countries in the tournament on playback later,” said 84 year-old Telfer who remains an avid watcher of rugby and still gets calls from those he coached at the height of his career looking for advice.

“There is a gap between Scotland and the rest at that under-20 level. I also watch a lot of under-16 and under-18 rugby and there is a lack of players simply playing rugby in those age groups.

“At under-20 level I saw only maybe one player, Freddy Douglas, the openside flanker who could get a contract at Edinburgh or Glasgow but that doesn’t mean to say I am writing off the rest, far from it.

Scotland Rugby News: Telfer praised young back-row Freddy DouglasTelfer praised young back-row Freddy Douglas (Image: SNS)

"They could be late developers but only so many can get into the Edinburgh and Glasgow youth academies. Where do these other young Scottish players go? 

If there was a third professional team they could at least have a chance to stay here and progress.

"I would like Scottish rugby to have a look at their books and try to find the cash somehow for a third team to keep the game alive and give young players a fair chance.

“I know Wales had a dreadful Six Nations but they run four pro teams and Ireland who won the championship have four while France has a thriving club game. It is only Italy and us who have just two pro teams.

"Yes, Italy had a good Six Nations but I don’t think they will consistently do well because, like us, their base is too narrow for players to come through from. They will rise one year, go down the next."

Scotland 'let themselves down at times' says Jim Telfer

Sitting across from a framed picture of the 1984 Grand Slam team, the man who is looked on as one of the greatest coaches in history gave his views on Scotland's Six Nations campaign. 

“I was very encouraged in the way Scotland played even although they finished fourth in the table,” he said.

“They let themselves down at times, the worst being when they shipped 26 points in the second half against Wales and nearly lost and also they were poor at times in their defeat to Italy.

“Both occasions showed their tendency to lack concentration for a full 80 minutes and that has to be a concern for Gregor.

READ MORE: Gregor Townsend's 'frustration' over mixed Six Nations

“On the positive side I was impressed at the way Scotland matched up physically to Ireland in defence and held them well till half-time but they couldn’t keep it up and the Irish wore down Scotland in the end.

"Ireland were always in control with Huw Jones' try coming far too late."

There was praise for Andy Christie - who earned his first Scotland start against Italy and was arguably the man of the match in the defeat to Ireland, while Telfer was also impressed by the performances of a pair of Glasgow Warriors backs. 

Scotland Rugby News: Andy Christie was a stand-out for Scotland, said TelferAndy Christie was a stand-out for Scotland, said Telfer (Image: PA)

“The find of the tournament for Scotland for me was Andy Christie who should have got more game time than he did early in the competition.

"He was phenomenal against Ireland.

“Those who enhanced their reputations include Huw Jones who had a very good tournament. Finn Russell played well and George Horne was the best performing scrum-half for Scotland. He is a quick passer, quick runner and is always threatening the opposition.

“Ben White is a more defensively minded scrum-half like Conor Murray and is good at high box kicks. I think George Horne showed enough in the Six Nations to be first Scotland’s first choice number nine going forward.

“I am not going to name individual players who did not play to their full potential and instead will go with units. The forwards played as well as they could but we lack individual forwards who can change games, take matches by the scruff of the neck.

READ MORE: Finn Russell says Scotland must be mentally stronger

“We have nobody like Ireland have such as Caelan Doris in the back row and Tadhg Beirne in the second row or even Peter O’Mahony who has great influence and although he is past his best, was a very crafty player.

“I don’t like to go back in time but Scotland had a tradition of having players with a bit of dog in them in the pack. Men like Finlay Calder, David Leslie but the present team lack someone with bite.

"We are too nice, but need someone who is hard as nails. We need someone ruthless. Jack Dempsey has potential in that area. I like him.

“Our back row and second row players are technically very gifted and work really hard but don’t have the X factor. There are not enough offloading forwards in the Scotland team.

"At fullback let’s just say we have yet to properly replace Stuart Hogg. Blair Kinghorn was posted missing twice against Italy.”

'Amazed' at calls for Gregor Townsend to go

Telfer also explained why he believes Gregor Townsend should remain Scotland's head coach despite a fourth place finish after just two wins out of five.

"I am amazed you are telling me some people want rid of him. He has been developing a style of play that suits the Scottish psyche.

"His team play a fast game that relies on ruck ball, forwards and backs inter-playing.

"They continue to develop and Gregor knows how to switch things up as he did against Ireland.

Scotland Rugby News: Telfer has backed his former player, Gregor Townsend, to remain as Scotland coachTelfer has backed his former player, Gregor Townsend, to remain as Scotland coach (Image: SNS)

"They were clever and mature tactics but we did not have the ammunition to win the game at the end because the players were tired. Overall Gregor is doing a good job.”

READ MORE: Townsend insists Scotland making progress despite Ireland loss

With the championship now at an end, Telfer also said it is important the position of the Scotland head coach is reviewed externally, rather than just by those within Scottish Gas Murrayfield. 

“All coaches have to be accountable," he said. 

"He needs to have a boss. In saying that Gregor was been part of the Scottish Rugby system so long he may be looked on as an equal partner. Even if that is the case he needs someone to ask him awkward questions.

"An internal management review between him and his Scotland assistants won’t lead to any decent questions.”

'There should be one leader'


On the 1997 Lions tour, Telfer and McGeechan handed the captaincy to a relative newcomer to the international stage in Martin Johnson. The England lock went on to become one of the all-time great leaders, captaining his country to the 2003 World Cup. 

Townsend this year did something similar, handing Rory Darge the co-captaincy along with Finn Russell. Telfer gave his views on that set-up. 

"I don’t know that means," he said.

Scotland Rugby News: Telfer feels Finn Russell should have led Scotland on his ownTelfer feels Finn Russell should have led Scotland on his own (Image: SNS Group)

"There should only be one leader. Finn was the overall captain for me. The teams I worked with, men like Lions captain Martin Johnson in 1997 didn’t say much but when he spoke people listened and followed him. Jim Aitken was Scotland captain in 1984 and led by example as did Finlay Calder.

“People will say you can’t shout or take people to task anymore,  as if we treated them badly when I was in charge. Players respect you as coach or captain if you are straight and don’t mollycoddle them.”

Telfer also criticised Scotland's summer tour plan. While their Six Nations rivals take on the best in the southern hemisphere, Scotland have four matches against USA, Canada, Chile and Uruguay. 

READ MORE: ROB ROBERTSON: What do Scotland gain from Americas tour?

“It used to be Scotland tried to tour against the best teams in the world but that clearly isn’t happening this summer," he said.

"They won’t get much from this tour apart from jet lag.”