Gregor Townsend says teams will stand before Murrayfield match

Coach insists his players were surprised when some English counterparts took a knee at Twickenham

Scotland's players will stand rather than kneel when showing their support for the Rugby Against Racism campaign on Saturday. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland's players will stand rather than kneel when showing their support for the Rugby Against Racism campaign on Saturday. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

BOTH the Scottish and Welsh squads will stand, not take a knee, during Saturday’s pre-match ‘moment of reflection’, according to Gregor Townsend. 

The apparent decision to adopt a common policy follows discussions designed to avoid a repeat of the controversy and confusion that surrounded the issue last weekend, when Scotland’s players were widely criticised on social media after only four of them took a knee at Twickenham while a greater number of the England squad did so. The following day in Cardiff, both Wales and Ireland stood en masse, incurring little or no adverse comment.

“We know what is happening this weekend,” Townsend said yesterday after announcing his team for the match at BT Murrayfield. “Both teams are going to stand and recognise rugby’s stand against racism and discrimination like we have done in all previous games.


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“Unless that changes, that is what we will do. As I mentioned earlier, it [the Twickenham situation] took us by surprise and a number of our players weren’t aware of it. I believe both teams are going to stand and reflect like we have been doing previously.”

Asked if he felt rugby was starting to look out of touch on the issue compared to other sports were participants take a knee more regularly, the Scotland coach continued: “Everyone’s got an opinion on anything and if people have an opinion on that, then that’s up to them. There’s a moment to reflect, there are messages going up on the screens, everyone is watching on TV, they’re not at the stadium. It’s what rugby has chosen to do and we’ll follow that.

“There was no conscious decision [at Twickenham] to do anything differently to what we’d done in previous games. The surprise was that it happened with the English players taking the knee and some [Scotland] players saw that and thought, ‘I’ve got a decision to make on the spot, do I do this or do I not?’

“We back our players no matter what decision they make. Not every player in the English team took a knee. If they’ve chosen not to, that’s their personal choice. It was just the fact that no-one was aware that that was going to happen.”


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About Stuart Bathgate 1412 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

32 Comments

  1. “Those who are so vehemently against it however need to look in the mirror and ask themselves why.”

    I’ll tell you why, it’s divisive and is creating racial tension where it very likely didin’t exist. By continually demanding people prove they are not discriminating based on race, you are ensuring they do exactly that. It is also virtue signalling, suggesting you are both more able to appreciate a problem, whether real or cultivated, and of a higher moral standing than those who don’t sympathise with your words and actions. You are not solving a problem, you are creating one.

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    • Why is it divisive? I don’t particularly care if people stand, kneel, or balance on their heid. The gesture is only perceived as divisive if you object to it in the first place.

      • Macbog I did keep reading but was left none the wiser. It’s a simple act of anti-racist solidarity, not some kind of litmus test of who is and isn’t racist. If you view it for what it is rather than pretending it’s something it isn’t, I doubt you’d perceive any racial tension there. Also I’m fairly sure black players have been racially abused long before the kneeling started.

      • Sorry, “pretending” is not the right word as it suggests wilful untruth. There’s a lot of genuine misunderstanding about the gesture

    • utter nonsense. Racial tensions exist. Fact. The debate would have happened whether every player had kneeled or every player stood. Fact. Pretending it wouldn’t is either terribly naive or wilful ignorance.
      It was not and is not about people proving anything. Except in the heads of those who do not listen, or do not want to.
      Showing respect is just that, showing respect. How we do that is up to individuals or teams to decide collectively.

  2. rugby was above apartheid as well. Rugby does not exist in a vacuum, however much some would like it to.

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  3. I’m disappointed that theres been a lack of taking the knee. Shame that rugby seems out of step with the current sporting zeitgeist.

    I’ll be taking the knee in the house anyway and hope plenty others do the same when watching.

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  4. For me its about choice. No one should be forced, through some twisted moral majority, to take a stance that is not in any way impactful. If someone can show me statistical, peer-reviewed evidence that taking a knee stops racism I will be all for it. I’ll be one of the very first to take a knee.

    Racism in any form is abhorrent.

    But if we truly want to make a difference then start calling people out on the street, pulling them up in your families or having a word if you see it in any form. I very much doubt all these intolerant “woke” types would move an inch for another person if it involved putting themselves in harms way.

    Its supercilious nonsense to try and bully people into getting your way. That doesn’t create change. Change comes from action not gestures from sponsors who just want you to buy more of their “stuff” and want to appear like they care. Who do you think creates these situations? Not the players. Its sponsors, TV companies and unions who want their money.

    Sport can be a vehicle for so many important messages but this now boils down to if you don’t take a knee you’re a racist. That kind of thought pattern is in itself utter garbage.

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    • Agree, good points all well made, except, personally I wouldn’t Kowtou to anyone or for any cause, Her Majesty and Knighthood excepted.

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      • Aye doff your cap to your “betters”

        The rank is but the guinea’s stamp, the man’s the gowd for a’ that

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      • It’s a ceremony, tradition, call it what you will but at least I put my name to my comments so my critics know who to address.

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      • jeez. I’ve no idea if that is your real name or not. It doesn’t matter. The only place I am going address you, and you me, is here. As in you managed to post that reply.
        I don’t know George Haley. I googled it. Only one I found died 6 years back. Now I understand why your posts read as if from the past.

        Back on topic, do you have any other traditions you like to keep up, apart from kow-towing to royalty. And any other things you don’t understand like that a show of respect isn’t kow-towing?

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    • Grant – I am a supporter of ‘taking the knee’ but am certainly not calling anyone racist who chooses not to. And likewise, choosing to take the knee should be respected as a choice. It doesn’t imply total agreement with everything anyone has ever said or done under the banner of anti-racism. I don’t share your scepticism about people being willing to put themselves out for others.

      The point about sponsors and unions is a fair one. I wonder for example whether the cotton in SRU merchandise can be certified as slavery-free? (As much as 20% of global cotton may still involve forced labour). That would be a practical step and not just posturing.

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      • Really curious what people ‘dislike’ about the above statement. Demanding a right not to kneel, while denying a corresponding right for others to take the knee, is utter hypocrisy.

      • Ok – hopefully in the sense of disliking the fact, rather than disagreeing that we shouldn’t buy the products of slave labour.

      • You make some fair points there David. But I see it far too often on social media. People screaming at others who don’t conform to their vision of what anti-racism is. This behaviour is tantamount to bullying when people start that nonsense.

        I am a staunch anti-racist for many reasons. But mainly because I believe in complete inclusivity. All our hearts beat the same way. For me that is the epitome of the sport we love so much. It is a value we need to hold on to in the strongest terms.

        My original comment was about those who get enraged by others who don’t match their fervent anger and opposition to racism. Its a bit like religion. Some choose to show it outwardly, and some choose to show it to themselves only. It doesn’t make them any less of a decent person.

        The only logical stance is to be anti-racist. How you practice that is entirely up to you.

  5. Makes sense. It looks like it was the lack of discussion before hand that caught people out.

    It’s still a personal choice and someone shouldn’t get criticism if they choose not to take the knee.

  6. This is terrible. I am tolerant of a diversity of opinion, but obviously not this one. In fact, if I don’t get what I want I will keep going on about it in pious moral terms until I make them change their mind by getting everyone else to round on those that don’t see the world in my terms. I will keep trying to hijack and detract from any other message or marketing anyone that disagrees with me on this crucial moral issue tries to put out. Never forget, volume + apparent majority opinion = objective truth.

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      • Are you suggesting the he is me? You are mistaken.
        Kinda agree with how crazy the world view on stuff like this is however though.

        Let the pros do their jobs.

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      • Not suggesting anything of the sort Neil. Just suggesting a nonsense phrase he could have included in his rant.

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  7. Quote from Anthony Watson on another rugby website: “Not everyone who is kneeling is directly associated with the Black Lives Matter organisation because some of their views in my opinion are a bit extreme. But the importance of kneeling to raise awareness of social injustice I feel is still massively important. To see people on social media try to discredit its importance – I can’t let that slide.”

    In the context, I think having everyone standing is a reasonable compromise and a good display of unity. However for the casual observer I think it could contrast poorly with football. It’s 6N time which means many fans are watching rugby for perhaps the only time this year, and some of the confusion has been understandable.

    Either way, TOL has brought more light than heat to the issue, which is important.

    I won’t respond to the comment on Antifa due to relevance, but think it’s about as accurate as a Billy Burns kick to touch.

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  8. Good leave the BLM/Antifa nonsense to football and the left wing media. Rugby is above that.

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    • rugby was above apartheid as well. Rugby does not exist in a vacuum, however much some would like it to.

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  9. A sensible compromise which should nip this in the bud for once and for all. Sports stars are influencers (albeit not Dubai-based) so attention will be paid to them but the original incident got blown out of proportion

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      • I would have taken the knee. But some players didn’t, and some players did.

        Marcus Watson took the knee and got racist abuse. Think on that a bit.

        Then think about what the origins of the original gesture is. Then about the abuse, racist that abounds in society, and yes in rugby. And what role models an signal.

        As I said had I been fortunate enough to be in their position, I would have taken the knee, but I’m not for criticising anyone who did not.

        Those who are so vehemently against it however need to look in the mirror and ask themselves why.

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