Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend insisted he thinks “very highly” of the coaching team he has assembled despite criticism from WP Nel that the national team lacks “an edge”.  

In an exclusive interview with Scotland Rugby News earlier this month, former Edinburgh and Scotland prop Nel said he felt that ‘edge’ was the missing ingredient from Townsend’s team.  

He also said he would have liked to see what Vern Cotter, the man Townsend succeeded as Scotland head coach in 2017, would have achieved with the current group.  

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Asked to respond to Nel’s comments after announcing his team to play USA in Washington, Townsend said: “I loved working with WP. He was someone we often highlighted as being a fantastic trainer and getting the most out of his game and his career.  

“I loved the last couple of years when his family came to a lot of games and they got a lot of joy out of seeing WP play.  

“Regarding the coaching group, we have an outstanding coaching group. The assistants are brilliant not only in their way of coaching and the detail but also how they connect with the players and how they bring the best out of their players. 

“People are entitled to their opinion but I think very highly of the coaching group.” 

Townsend did concede improving Scotland’s work in the “dark arts” has been a focus since the Rugby World Cup.  

Gregor Townsend has responded to the comments made by WP Nel to Scotland Rugby NewsTownsend has responded to the comments made by WP Nel (Image: Getty)

“It is something we talked about post-World Cup as part of our game we could improve, and we have,” the Scotland head coach continued.  

“Those might be technical things or knowing how to push the edges of the game, but it is something that we practice and talk about and I believe we have the players to do that well." 

Nel, who returned to South Africa this week, ending a dozen years in Scotland, also revealed he wanted to stay but claims there were no opportunities to remain a Scottish Rugby employee.  

Whoever those conversations took place with, Townsend was not involved.  

Asked if he’d spoken to the 61-times capped former tighthead about remaining involved, Townsend added: “No there were no conversations”.