Scotland v France reaction: ‘We need to raise our level again for Wales,’ says Gregor Townsend

Buoyant Scots head to Cardiff hoping to secure a third win on the bounce in this Six Nations, but face a six day turnaround

Gregor Townsend will lead a confident Scotland team to Cardiff next week. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Gregor Townsend will lead a confident Scotland team to Cardiff next week. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

GREGOR TOWNSEND says his team must raise their standards again if they are to have any chance beating Wales in Cardiff next Saturday. If they get a positive result at the Principality Stadium, it will be the first time Scotland have won three games on the bounce in the same Five/Six Nations campaign since 1996 and would open up the possibility of finishing top of the table if other results go the right way. However, a six-day turnaround and a fairly dismal recent record at that venue means that a huge collective effort will be required.

“We just have to go down there and show the fight and consistency we have shown here, but also a little bit more quality and learn from our game today to take that to another level, because we’ll have to do that next week as Wales are a very good side,” said Townsend.

“These two wins [against Italy and France], showed the mentality and confidence to get out and find a way to win, but there’s more to come – more defensively even though we’re doing that area well,” he added.


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“You get confidence when you see the rewards you get for doing something, and the way we’re training really gives me a lot of encouragement. We had a big session on Wednesday, a lot of physicality, a lot of tackling and contact work, and we saw the players take that into the game.

“We’ve known this [tight turnaround] was coming for a while. We’re going to have to do less at training – additional playbook and game-plan information is going to have to be down, the physical work is going to be down – but we’ve had experience of this scenario at the World Cup when we had a four-day turnaround and I think we had only one training session.

“We’re planning for one and a half this week. Our opponents had a tough game yesterday as well, so even though they’ve got an extra day I’m sure there is some tired bodies in the Welsh camp.”

France arrived at Murrayfield chasing a Grand Slam and overwhelming favourites against a Scotland side who had been obstinate but not particularly compelling during their first three matches – but Les Bleus left with their tails tucked between their legs after failing to find a way past the home team’s ferocious defence. Most pleasing of all for the Scots was that they scored three tries, doubling their account for the championship.

“I think it’s a performance we’ve displayed in every game,” said Townsend, when asked if he thought Scotland had finally shown their true colours. “We’ve been consistent throughout the championship, we’ve defended well and we’ve been tough to play against.

“I think the game here a month ago against England was a different kind of rugby so both teams couldn’t put down more of what they wanted to do, but in those other three games we’ve been tough to beat, and we’ve learned and improved as a group. It was great to see how much energy and physicality the players played with today.”

Seeing red

While Scotland deserve all the credit they get, there is no doubt that they were aided in their task by the 37th minute red-carding of French tight-head Mohamed Haouas for throwing a wild – and incredibly stupid – punch at man-of-the-match Jamie Ritchie. With Francois Cros also spending 10 minutes in the cooler earlier in the first half for a tip-tackle on Grant Gilchrist, the visitors played all but 27 minutes with a man less. However, Townsend stressed that this should not be used to undermine his team’s performance.

“I was really pleased we made the most of that [red-carding] in the next few minutes, took three points straight after and then got back down there and scored a cracking try, so that was great to see and the players came in at half-time really confident with how they were playing,” he said.

“But I thought we played better in the first half than the second half. We had France on the back foot, we turned them over nine times in the first half in the way we defended, and we had opportunities getting in behind them.

“Sometimes a red card can really help you, but I felt France coped with the one man down in terms of how they worked the set-piece. And it gave them a bit of a kickstart to play more rugby to try and win. They’re a very dangerous team when they’re offloading, putting little chip kicks in and counter-attacking.

“Who knows? If you have a one-man advantage it’s better than having the same numbers, but I thought we played really well when it was 15 against 15, and the weather was more of a factor in the last 20 minutes.”


Scotland v France: Sean Maitland double dashes visitors’ Grand Slam dream

About David Barnes 3911 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. I hope the last two Scottish wins will encourage the rugby writing community – including David Barnes – to give the team, GT and coaching staff the credit they deserve. I’m a bit over all the “somethings rotten in Scottish rugby” conspiracy theories and GT bashing that goes on. I realise the press are trying to generate interest in their work through critical writing pieces, but i don’t think this reflects reality or does Scottish rugby any favors.

    Despite the Finn Russell nonsense at the start of the competition, the team are united and clearly playing for each other. The coaches and senior players deserve great credit for maintaining (and even improving!) morale within the camp despite many commentators using the GT/FR saga as a way of levering GT out of a job. FR clearly doesn’t like being told to play a more conservative game plan and spat the dummy out. Well, Finn, if you can’t be a team player, we don’t want you. We need everyone pulling in the same direction if we’re to be successful and I think GT handled this affair in completely the correct way.

    I think we have to remember where we’ve come from: During the first 15 years of this century Scotland were dreadful more often that not, and Murrayfield attendances reflected that. We couldn’t buy a try. It’s only since about 2015 that Scottish rugby has got to grips with professionalism and started producing players who can actually compete at this level. Gregor Townsend has been a big part of that steady improvement – first at Glasgow and now with Scotland. And Scotland is a minnow nation if you look at playing numbers compared to most Tier 1 nations – i’m always surprised we can compete at all! It’s quite remarkable if you consider it.

    At the end of the day, we need to ask, is GT getting the most out of the players at his disposal, and i think the reasonable response that that is “Yes”. I see a team laying their bodies on the line and giving 110% right now. That’s all i ask from my Scottish rugby team, and I’ll support them win or lose if they continue to make me proud in this way. And I’ll be ignoring most of the journalism trying to tell me otherwise.

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  2. Good win well done.The red card,France loosing there top player at fly half and the help of the NZ ref,were Frances downfall,but contributed to the Scotland victory.Scotland forwards had a much improved game, this new coach seems to know his stuff,line out still a problem. The spoiling unorthodox defence certainly upset the French.Hastings not kicking away possession allowed the wings and centers to be more involved in the game.Service from Price still appears to be a problem.
    The table is making Scotland look good but regrettably not a true reflection with games being cancelled.
    Improved performance from Towsends men,Maitland. Johnson. Watson Kinghorn Hogg played superb.

  3. The big differences were the forwards running onto the ball rather than taking it standing still, and also the late passes just before contact which kept the French defence on their toes.

    The tempo remains high but everything seems much simpler and stripped back, letting players direct their energy in to right ways. Long may it continue!

  4. I really don’t know what to make of this team. The scrum’s solid, Ritchie and Watson are causing mayhem, our defence has improved, we couldn’t hit a coo’s backside with a banjo at lineouts and the delivery from 9 and 10 isn’t quick enough to make our effective back line a regular threat. Wales should target Price and Hastings to ensure slow delivery and they have the loose forwards to do that, so it might well be a kicking game. As with France of old, I just don’t know which Scotland will turn up in Cardiff, so I really couldn’t call it.

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  5. The first 25 minutes seemed pivotal, the slow and methodical approach of Scotland really seemed to take the wind out of the French sails. It felt as though this methodical pressure got under the skin of the French.

    So Virus permitting the Welsh match will be a key test for the squad and GT, finish in the top 3 or fall back to 2nd from the bottom.

    But for the time being well done for a great performance!

  6. The first 25 minutes seemed pivotal, the slow and methodical approach of Scotland really seemed to take the wind out of the French sails. It felt as though this methodical pressure got under the skin of the French.

    So Virus permitting the Welsh match will be a key test for the squad and GT, finish in the top 3 or fall back to 2nd from the bottom.

    But for the time being well done for a great performance!

    • I could not agree more with Sandy. Scotland just made sure their defence was solid and played a canny game for the first 20 minutes. You could see the French players getting more and more frustrated as the game wore on, which led to their indiscipline and lack of focus. Tactically superb!

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