Gregor Townsend last night revealed that he has had “initial conversations” with Scottish Rugby about continuing in his role as head coach beyond the Rugby World Cup, and said that as things stood he wanted to carry on a job he began in 2017.

Speaking after his team made sure of third place in the Six Nations with a hard-fought 26-14 win over Italy, the 49-year-old insisted he was in no rush to sign a new contract to replace the one which expires in the autumn. But as he assessed the progress made this season by a Scotland side that won three of their five games, he gave the clear impression that he felt he had unfinished business to conduct with the squad.

“Soon,” Townsend said after being asked when he hoped to have clarity about his own position. “I’ve had initial conversations the last couple of weeks, and there will be time over the next few weeks to have a bigger chat about it in more depth.

“The focus in the last two weeks has been these games. After a few days off I’m sure these conversations will start up again. I’ve indicated I need some time to think about it, especially when the tournament was in full flow. I’ll have some reflecting and time off and discussions will start again soon.”

These days six years is a long time for a coach to be in charge of a team, and it remains to be seen if Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson decides he wants Townsend to extend his tenure. By the same token, the coach would be sure of lucrative offers from elsewhere, and if and when a firm offer is made, he needs to decide if it is acceptable.

Bearing that in mind, however, he implied that, all else being equal, he would want to stay.

“Yes, at this stage,” he replied when asked if he wanted to carry on. “But it’s not the time to be answering these questions when you’re just off a victory, the crowd are behind the team and you’re connected with the players.

“It’s a great feeling, but I don’t want to commit to anything just now. There’s conversations that have started and they’ll start up again after some time off. We’ll see how they develop.

“Honestly, I’ve tried to put this to the side. Your brain has only so much capacity on one thing and that for me is to do the best I can as the team’s coach, now. Whatever happens over the next week or so, I’ll think about it nearer the time, and when we get those discussions started again, I’ll address it again.

“But I’m thrilled with the players that have come through, the younger players who have come through, older players like Richie Gray, players who have maybe not been involved like Huw Jones. These players are playing at their best level and that’s exciting.

“I believe the team feel they’ve got the game to take on anyone in the world, but we have to keep striving to be better. There’s a lot of areas we can improve, today and in the wider campaign. The tests are only going to get bigger in who we face in the World Cup – two teams [Ireland and South Africa] in the top three in the world. We’ve played the top two teams [Ireland and France], didn’t beat them, but we’ve learned a lot in those fixtures. We’ll have to be better again in the World Cup.”

Asked if three wins were a fair return from the Championship, he replied: “That’s for you guys to decide. We go into every game thinking we can win, we do the work in the training week to put a winning performance out there, so we’re disappointed when that doesn’t happen.

“We’ll be disappointed with some aspects of today, but to get the win, to get four tries, is good reward. Our attack has shown we can score tries, score them out wide, and we’re stressing teams across the field. Our defence has stood up on a few occasions as well. But both areas we’re continuing to work to improve.”