As he revealed Harlequins play-maker James Lang as the latest player to be persuaded to take advantage of his heritage, Gregor Townsend yesterday acknowledged that it is becoming harder to recruit Anglo-Scots to the cause.

Scotland’s head coach joined senior SRU officials earlier this year in heading south of the border to declare their intent to intensify their scouting around the globe and particularly in England.

Since then former Scotland prop George Graham’s Stirling-born son Gary has been drafted into England’s senior squad, fellow Under-20 cap Ben Vellacott has followed him in switching allegiance and Cameron Redpath, the son of Townsend’s former half-back partner Bryan, has gone against the wishes of his father, who has just been appointed Scotland Under-20s head coach, by aligning himself with the country he has grown up in.

Townsend suggested that was partly down to what has been a noticeable improvement in the performances of Scottish teams at age-grade level in recent years.

“It’s competitive. You have more competitors in the market,” he said. “Maybe the Scottish players are more on the horizon for England than before, which is a credit to them, or maybe teams like England and other nations are just being more competitive and making sure that dual-qualified players start playing regularly for their professional teams and invite them to train and go on tours to persuade them to be with them. I don’t think that would have been the case five years ago.”

He accepted that the heavily trumpeted Scottish recruitment drive might have resulted in something of a backlash, but defended that initiative.

“In the history of the game we have always brought in players who are qualified for more than just Scotland. There has not really been a change there,” Townsend asserted. “Maybe England are putting more emphasis on it than before. We had an excellent performance from our Under-18 team a couple of weeks ago, our Under-20s had an excellent year and I’m sure that not just club representatives were watching these players.

“National coaches would have been watching and agents would be watching too. We have to do a good job to sell, if that’s the phrase, to persuade players that playing for Scotland is the right thing for their careers.”

He said he might consider giving Graham and Vellacott further opportunities if they remain uncapped by England, but that he was loath to apply any further pressure to young Redpath as he leaves school and sets out in senior rugby, observing only that: “Of course, if he becomes a better player, which we all hope he does, and gets on to the horizon of playing international rugby, I would love him to play for Scotland like his dad did.”

However, Townsend was clearly delighted at having secured the services of 23-year-old Lang who qualifies for Scotland because his maternal grand-father, Alexander Hendry, hailed from Cambuslang, saying: “We’ve know for a while he is Scottish-qualified. He got involved with Harlequins last season. I had looked at him and how he was playing before last year’s tour and we kept an eye on him throughout the season.

“He had a cracking game against Wasps before Christmas. He has played a bit at full-back and at 12 but mainly been cover for stand-off, off the bench. We have tracked for the past two months. I spoke to him during the Six Nations to say we were keeping an eye on him and that if he kept up his form he could be in the mix for summer as a 12.

“He has that ball-carrying ability and his biggest strength is his ability to break tackles, but his ability to play 10 means we have a second receiver, a second kicker. That’s something we want to explore.”