SCOTTISH RUGBY chief executive Mark Dodson has indicated that a contract extension agreement with Gregor Townsend could be announced before Christmas.

The national team head coach’s deal runs out next summer, but it is understood that both he and his employers are keen to agree terms through to the 2023 World Cup in France.

“I think we’ll be in a position to talk about that [Townsend’s contract] soon,” said Dodson. “We’ve had so much on, so we just need to find the appropriate time to sit down and tidy these things up.

“We’re all grown-ups. We’ve all said we know where we want to be, let’s come back and nail this before Christmas. Hopefully, we’ll be in a position to give an update on that in the next few weeks.”

Townsend, pictured, took over as Scotland head coach in June 2017. His honeymoon period brought historic victories over Australia away that summer and England at home during the 2018 Six Nations, but his stock fell dramatically when Scotland tumbled out of the 2019 World Cup at the end of the pool stage. Since then, the team have become harder to beat, and Townsend’s big challenge is to find a balance between this new-found pragmatism and the flair which characterised his first 18 months in the job.

Meanwhile, Scottish Rugby has submitted a refined proposal to the Scottish Government seeking permission to host a crowd of 5,000 at Murrayfield for the 1872 Cup clash between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors on 2 January, followed by 10,000 at a yet to be specified pro-club game later in that month, with the target of 25,000 at each of Scotland’s three home games in the 2021 Six Nations against Wales on 13 February, Ireland on 14 March and Italy on 20 March.

“With the present restrictions in the city of Glasgow, it will not be possible to welcome spectators back to Scotstoun, but we will continue to monitor the picture there and work closely with Government and our partners at Glasgow Life,” chief operating officer Dominic McKay said in a club communication yesterday.

If crowds do start to return during the second half of the season, it will be in the main stadium for Edinburgh, rather than their new venue which has been constructed behind Murrayfield’s West Stand.

“You can socially distance and get more people in because of its size than you can socially distancing in the new stadium,” said McKay. “I don’t want to move Edinburgh into a new stadium that doesn’t have the atmosphere we’ve built it for. We want them to go out and make it the new Scotstoun, really noisy and atmospheric. If we slide people into there too early, it kind of defeats the object.”