Calcutta Cup reaction: Scotland coach Gregor Townsend plays it cool after England win

Head coach expresses concern about smart mouthguard technology

Gregor Townsend was less than effuse about Scotland's performance against England. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Gregor Townsend was less than effuse about Scotland's performance against England. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THESE are strange times. Scotland may have convincingly beaten England, scoring 30 points in the process, which would have been grounds for a national holiday in years gone by, but head coach Gregor Townsend was not exactly punching the roof in delight afterwards. He was, of course, pleased at the result but insisted that the performance fell below the level that he, his coaching team and the players had aspired to.

“It’s great we got the win. To score 30 points in this fixture shows what this team is capable of. I thought the bench did really well, but I still felt there were missed opportunities in the final 20 minutes,” he reasoned.

“Perhaps that was because we were ahead on the scoreboard so we looked to relieve pressure and kick, backing our defence. We’ll be working on, if we’re ahead against teams, let’s take the opportunities that are there.


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“I’m so proud of the effort. To deny England a bonus point was also good too. There is more we have to bring out in the next two fixtures, [which will be] very tough away games, but we’ll go to Italy with confidence.”

Asked if he regarded this game as step up from the team’s performances in a narrow win away to Wales and a narrow loss at home France during the opening two rounds of this Six Nations campaign, he replied: “Yes and no. There were a lot of positives in those two games. Today we were behind for 15 minutes and didn’t play very well at all. France we were ahead until the last 10 minutes and likewise in Wales. Every game is different, you have to problem-solve and work out what you need to improve but also what the opposition are giving yuou.

“I thought England were hugely competitive. They started with an intensity in their defence and contact. They were getting quick ball and scored 10 points. They kepy competing hard at the breakdown and set-piece so a lot of credit goes to our forwards.

“I didn’t think we were getting the rub of the green from the referee at the scrum but we kept that pressure on, kept that belief in our line-out maul and execution [and] that kept us ahead. England are a very good team with a strong pack, and while it wasn’t the cleanest of games at times, it was really intense. A proper Calcutta Cup fixture.”

The coach was equally measured when asked about his assessment of hat-trick hero Duhan van der Merwe‘s performance.

“I think it’s a team sport and two of Duhan’s tries were created by others,” he said. “It is a great achievement and Duhan is actually very humble. I was praising him for his [yellow card] tackle, I think it’s the best tackle I’ve seen from him and how that went to report … I don’t know what game we’re watching now. A very good tackle that could be a red card – it just seems crazy.

“He did a lot of work in the France game with no reward. Today, that work brought him reward.

“The first try was exceptional play from Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones to keep the ball alive. That was the first time we’d had an attacking platform in England’s half, so that was needed.

“The second one was a big momentum-swinger. The crowd appreciated it and realised that too, and the third one, Finn’s kick, a good bounce and Duhan to finish was great to see.”

This was the first time any Scotland player has scored a hat-trick in a Calcutta Cup fixture and take the big South African to 26 international tries in total, just one short of Stuart Hogg‘s all-time record.

“Yeah, and he’s got a lot of rugby ahead of him,” pointed out Townsend. “Darcy Graham is up in those high numbers too and has a lot of rugby ahead of him.

“The threat we have out wide, with Kyle Steyn too and other guys who have played for us, puts teams under pressure. They can’t just focus on our midfield and there will be space on the field and I’m glad Duhan found it today.

“Scoring three tries is an amazing achievement but I don’t think it’ll beat last year, though [at Twickenham] when Duhan’s two tries were amazing. He scored three years ago as well so clearly thrives in this fixture and we’re delighted he was available today.”

 

 

He was also asked about the smart mouthguard technology which sent an alert message to the pitch side doctor meaning that Zander Fagerson had to leave the field for several minutes to undergo an HIA.

“I saw the tackle again – just a normal tackle [so] I think we have to really watch what we’re doing here. Trust in technology that’s not been proven.

“What we’ve been doing over the last few years is making sure that any symptoms that are seen, a number of people can flag up whether someone goes off for an HIA.

“Zander was taken off for 10 minutes after what looked like a normal tackle but there was a spike alert from the mouthguard.

“I know in Super Rugby there were a couple of alerts and players were saying: ‘There’s nothing wrong here, I’ve just made a tackle’. So we’ve got to watch that because you don’t want to be taking off our best players off the field for 10 minutes if there are no issues around concussion.

“We want to protect our players, that’s for certain, but there’s a bit more work to do before this technology is correct.

“It’s a new thing in the Six Nations and it’s not been used at club level prior to the Six Nations. I’d hope they’d learn from today’s incident and obviously George Turner went off for 10 minutes in the previous game.

“[We need] to make sure it’s as close to accurate as possible. That’s what we want.

“We have lots of eyes watching and players are now very good at saying: ‘I’ve had a head injury here I have to go off’. I think we just need to do a bit more work here before we move on.”

Sione Tuipulotu appears to be the only fresh injury concern ahead of Scotland’s next match away to Italy in two weekends’ time.

“Sione picked up a knee injury, I think it’s medial. He felt he could run it off – he did in the first half – but as soon as he got out in the second half it was clear it wasn’t going to work,” explained Townsend.

 

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Calcutta Cup: clinical Scotland put England to the sword

About David Barnes 3891 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

7 Comments

  1. Just hoping that Sione’s injury isn’t serious. His touch for the first try was lovely, taking the ball right to the line and taking the hit as he set Shuggie Jones off into space. The good thing is that we’ve got a top quality replacement in Redpath and it might actually allow big Stafford McDowell a well deserved call up.

  2. Great win for Scotland, despite some errors.
    Can’t understand the constant requirement call the Scottish players south African or Aussie.
    There are players in all the nations who have qualified through residency, so why have a poke at Scotland.

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    • Indeed. The tier 1 SH sides are generally made of immigrants, a lot descended from 6N countries, often not many generations in. VDM definitely doesn’t have an African complexion, but surely a North European one. Lots of 6N players that also don’t have that lack of melanin but were born here.

      And anyone with a Scottish daddy is almost destined to choose Scotland. Cammy Redpath says so.

      There’s maybe some argument about residency/eligibility in rugby but generally it seems it veers onto history and politics. The pacific islanders would probably be tier one if it weren’t for economic migration and politics. It’s a turtles all the way down conversation in most ways and beyond the residency rule requirement, probably better avoided.

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  3. What a game! I agree re Duhan’s yellow card tackle. I’ve said often he’s not the best tackler (makes up for it in other ways obvs) and was really impressed with that one!

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    • Aye the one to.e he makes a good defensive read and he tips the opponent. Hard to be critical of him though when he seems to enjoy scoring against England so much….almost anti English some might say far more so than any song….

    • Coming of age with his attacking prowess. I think Darcy G would have easily scored two of his tries with his similar pace mind, one required a bit of VDM power.

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