GREGOR TOWNSEND believes that Scotland’s 11-6 victory over England at Twickenham ranks as one of the best results in the nation’s history.
It is Scotland’s first success at the venue since 1983, only their fourth win there ever, and sets the team up for a long overdue tilt at the Six Nations title, although there is still a long way to go.
Scotland have not managed to finish above third in the table during the 21 years since Italy joined the competition. This is only the fourth time during that period that they have got off to a winning start, and everything the follows tends to be a bit easier when you hit the ground running.
“I’m very aware of the history,” said Townsend afterwards. “I’ve come down here a number of times as a player and as a coach and not come away with anything. It’s got to be up there with the best ever results in our history, certainly in my playing and coaching career.
“I still go back to three years ago when we beat England at Murrayfield, just because of the crowd, the atmosphere and the way the players played – but today we were outstanding, too, in really tricky conditions.
“It was wet the whole game with really heavy rain in the second half, so to win in these conditions against a very good side with the record they have here is a fantastic achievement.”
The last 18 months have tough for Townsend, with Scotland’s early exit from the 2019 World Cup and his very public falling out with Finn Russell during the lead-up to last year’s Six Nations leaving many doubting whether the team was heading in the right direction under his stewardship. However, he was always been confident that he is the right man for the job, and isn’t viewing this game as a specific turning point.
“No, it doesn’t feel like vindication,” he stated. “We all enjoyed last year and you learn in defeat. You grow as a team in adversity. We’ve had moments before, during and after the World Cup that have shaped us as players and as coaches.
“Today a lot of our success was down to what happened in Dublin last November. Over there, we came in at half-time, having played really well but having picked up a yellow card just before half-time, so today we were able to reference that [when Russell got his yellow-card], having already reviewed how we could improve from that.
“It was so good to see the players play really well during that yellow-card period, and then we had the boost when we went back to 15 for the final 35 minutes. That was great for our team.
“It wasn’t just one way of playing,” he added. “There was a lot of variety in our play and that was about working out where we were having success and maybe the opposition weren’t going as well, and then being accurate.
“There were leaders right through our team today. Finn leading the attack, with Stuart Hogg as captain leading at 15 and Ali Price inside him. On the defensive side of things, Chris Harris and Jamie Ritchie were in charge.
“And I thought Scott Cummings had a fantastic game against the best line-out in the world. The calling was really good, we put a lot of pressure on their line-out, stole a couple and didn’t give them quality ball. That gives us a lot of encouragement, not just the result but the fact that players stepped up and controlled the performance.”
Townsend also praised for 21-year-old debutant Cameron Redpath, who excelled in both defence and attack against the nation he had appeared to be leaning towards playing for up until three weeks ago.
“I thought it was an incredible debut,” said Townsend. “To come into a squad that you’ve not trained with before, meet players for the first time and then integrate into our way of playing was excellent.
“We saw his skillset, his confidence and his maturity in his games with Bath, but you don’t expect someone on their debut to have such an accomplished start against England of all teams, in a place where we have not won for so long.
“He was excellent, he got the ball a lot in the first half which helped him, and he did well when he did. He had some good carries, some really good passes and secured an excellent jackal penalty for us in the second half.
“He showed his competitiveness, and it’s really exciting what he can achieve in his career and what we can achieve with him in the next few years.”
Next up for Scotland is Wales at home next Saturday.