Scotland v France reaction: Townsend and Hogg focus on the positives

Knowing what is coming and being able to do something about it are two very different things

Gael Fickou and Anthony Jelonch of France tackle Stuart Hogg of Scotland. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Gael Fickou and Anthony Jelonch of France tackle Stuart Hogg of Scotland. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THERE is not much you can say mid-tournament after a heavy defeat by a much better team, beyond trying to stay upbeat. Gregor Townsend is a product of the positive reinforcement school of man-management (at least when speaking to the media), and it might not to be to everyone’s liking, but he was absolutely within his rights to argue that it was not all bad for his side after this afternoon’s dismantling by Grand Slam chasing France. He was also right to point out that his players had come up against a special team playing close to their best.

“There were a lot of positives, I thought our scrum was very strong against arguably one of the best scrummaging teams in the world,” he argued. “Our maul defence was good too, we just need to trust that a little bit more because we did give away a couple of penalties in that area, but the effort the players put in was huge throughout the 80 minutes.

“It’s a similar [French] team to the one we’ve come up against in the last few years so we know their strengths,” he added. “They have a big pack and we knew where they’d put us under pressure, but we did feel we handled that well. I felt we were getting the nudge in some of our scrums. We got a few penalties ourselves in the 22 and we mauled well against them.


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“But it’s their ability to turn good ball into a try. There is a massive tradition in French rugby for unstructured situations. It’s where they flourish and thrive, probably going back to Pierre Villepreux’s methods of coaching and teams like Toulouse and others.

“In France the players react to space and different defensive pictures that they get. They do it really well. And turnover ball is the best ball you can get. The French are probably up there with the All Blacks at being the best at exploiting that.

“I feel that their front five really adds to it as well. It’s not just relying on the backs or the back row to make the most of that ball if you’ve got a front five who can pass and make breaks themselves. It means you’ve got a real XV who can attack.

“So, they showed what a good team they are, their backline is strong, their scrum-half is obviously a very good player who gives them good ball, but the thing which stands out is their front five. Their ability to carry and keep the ball, and they were very clinical close to the try-line and not just going down into a ruck or going into touch, but offloading to someone else.”

 

Meanwhile, captain Stuart Hogg promised that the team will be ready to bounce back against Italy in two weekends’ time.

“We’ve spoken a lot in the changing room about what is needed going into the last two weeks of the Six Nations, and it is a horrible feeling right now but the worst thing for me is having to wait another two weeks until we play again,” he explained. “I know I speak on behalf of the whole squad when I say we would love to play Italy tomorrow.

“We just need to concentrate on ourselves. At times we showed what we are about and we just need that for 80 minutes. I know we kind of say the same things but that’s the difference between winning and losing Test match rugby.

“We talked about staying in every single moment of the game, and at times we did that to get in the right areas and look dangerous, but at other times we let it slip a little bit too easily.

“We need to be in a position to win most moments in the game: play in the right areas, make sure we have a clinical edge, stand firm defensively, not allow teams too much momentum … there’s not much more I can say than that.”

Hogg stressed that he holds himself as accountable as any of his team-mates for their collective failure to deliver the performance they believed they were capable of, and he acknowledged that his fumble of Chris Harris’ pass with the try-line at his mercy just before half-time was a sliding-doors moment in the match, with France immediately marching downfield to claim their third try, meaning that instead of going in at the break five points ahead, the hosts found themselves nine points behind.

“I think it was [a swing moment],” he agreed. “I’m bitterly disappointed with how that ended. I’d have loved to have caught that and scored because I felt at the time that momentum was right behind us. But we’ve then gone penalty [conceded], penalty [conceded] and they scored from easy field position we’ve gifted them. So, we compounded errors there.”

Hogg also had words of praise for flanker Rory Darge, who marked his first start with an all-action display topped off by the first of his team’s two tries.

“I thought Rory was absolutely outstanding,” he said. “I don’t know how many turnovers he got but he was busy, and he had dominant collisions, got over ball to slow them down, carried a lot – and we just need everybody to follow suit.

“He got in good positions both sides of the ball and made a big impact so, yeah, he was quality.”


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About David Barnes 3112 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.

19 Comments

  1. I’m not sure what to make of AB Zondagh. He was brought in as attack coach and possibly a long term back up to Toony. However, our attack play seems to have gone backwards rapidly. Maybe there is too much focus on the defence in the coaching team but even there teams have started to work us out a little. I wouldnt be surprised if there is a shake up after the 6 nations.

  2. While it would not have changed the result, the referee was incompetent. First having given a penalty for the neck tackle on Price, which prevented him from scoring, should then have been a penalty try. Secondly the head charge on Skinner was at least a yellow card if not a red card.
    Regarding the performance we usually have the best defence in the 6 Nations but for some reason it went AWOL on Saturday. While Dupont’s run from deep was marvelous the number of missed tackles made it far better than it should have been.
    For some time now I have not considered Hogg to be the best option. He never actually gets over the gain line, too often becomes isolated and the number of times he is penalised for not releasing is too much.
    When we had the ball (not that often) we did not go through the phases and suck in their defence.
    On the plus side Darge is the real deal in the strong tradition of Scottish open sides.

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  3. Glasgow won the Pro 14 because Big Leone created space with two stupendous off loads which Townsend had specifically instructed him not to do.
    Scotland drew with England at Twickenham because Russell ignored Townsends instructions after half time.
    Is there a theme developing there?

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  4. I suspect the best Scottish coach is no longer part of the game, Craig Chalmers. His was a loss we couldn’t afford, but that’s water under the bridge. Edinburgh’s progress has been impressive this season, so, if that continues, Blair might be a consideration should Townsend step aside after the world cup next year. Maybe a little more time with Edinburgh would be preferable, but if not Blair, who is there? Joe Schmidt, if he could be tempted?

  5. The simple fact of the matter is we have a more talented pool of players than we had when Townsend took over. Now how the development structure works is another matter, but fact is we have these players. However, what we clearly don’t have with Townsend is a coach who can’t turn this talent mix into a real winning team. We’re still at 5th in 6 Nations. Beaten again by an average Wales team, “we’ll bounce back against Italy”…. really Hoggy?? I could go on but my record is broken… He’s a lovely man and has to be given a great leaving party very soon, in fact as soon as this 6 Nations finishes.

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  6. The simple fact of the matter is we have a more talented pool of players than we had when Townsend took over. Now how the development structure works is another matter, but fact is we have these players. However, what we clearly don’t have with Townsend is a coach who can’t turn this talent mix into a real winning team. We’re still at 5th in 6 Nations. Beaten again by an average Wales team, “we’ll bounce back against Italy”…. really Hoggy?? I could go on but my record is broken… He’s a lovely man and has to be given a great leaving party very soon, in fact as soon as this 6 Nations finishes. I fear however the cabal at the SRU will only act when people start voting with their feet.

  7. Two tries butchered hy Scotland which would have given us a good advantage and momentum at half time. These are the moments where good teams show composure and are clinical in execution. Harris should have played it through hands and the try was nailed on.VDM got ahead of the pass. We are still way off a potential championship winning side and some of these players won’t have too many more. I suspect the expectation this year has been too much.

  8. Harris is a good solid player and a British Lion but surely he is simply not the option going forward. His wild Inexplicable pass to Hogg when there was a 4 on 1 was a extraordinary thing.
    GT (I’d have sacked him after the RWC) had some Brownie points having won in England, Wales and in France but this team is mot improving, previously we seen some thrilling rugby – this is pretty rare now. Wales were there for the taking and the unforced errors are worrying (and increasing).
    Kinghorn had a real curates egg of a 20mins it went from looking like he’d never played rugby before to a sensational break.
    Simply do not see this team beating Ireland so it’s a wooden spoon decider again v italy.
    Steyn, Hastings, Vellacott need to be involved v Italy.

    • Well sumed up on Harris good solid player full stop. We need a midfield with genuine pace & cutting edge the ability to take n give a pass under pressure or not!.
      It’s not like we don’t have options we do have players with those attributes Mr Townsend.

  9. Townsend is a liability
    Best Scottish coach when he got the gig but not the best option available
    Lucky coach – appointed to Glasgow after Sean Lineen did the spade work – benefited from Hogg and Russell being good players
    Big Vern built the foundations for a decent national side and then got shown the door – Townsend continues to benefit from a decent group of players
    Inept at the last world cup
    No real progress in terms of quality – just relying on the flair of individuals
    Easy to motivate Scottish teams to play against England – he even managed to be 30 odd points down at half time at Twickenham
    Player fall out – get a draw
    Lions tour he coached attack – we lost
    Get rid – simples
    Italy to beat us in Rome
    Ireland to beat us in Dublin
    No progress but folk get paid their bonuses at Murrayfield and Super 6 continues to be championed whilst the grass roots game is basically on the bones of its arse

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  10. When a player of the calibre of Adam Hastings is omitted for Blair Kinghorn you know things aren’t going to end well. Sure he built a try running the ball back from fullback but he is not an int quality 10.
    The hard edge that Cotter brought to Scotland is gone and replaced with a “let’s look for the positives” attitude every time we are beaten.
    Russell and Hogg need dropping for the Italy match but that would mean Kinghorn would need to play two positions, simultaneously, and even ” the best player of his generation ‘ would find that a difficult task.

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  11. My simple take is we’ve won the grandslam twice. Over 30 years ago. Of the small nations Scotland is a football country. The 6N a social occasion. The team will have good games but anything more is a bonus. The stars will go where the money is. The club game is vital. The sums are not huge. Invest across the board.

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  12. I appreciate it is difficult to look at the wider picture given the France game is just over. But that is not the problem France are a very very good team . Unfortunately our coach is incapable of building a team environment to deal with winning a number of games in a tournament situation. We can win one off games against most teams which we have evidenced over the years but we are simply incapable of winning the games that really matter over a series of games. That is absolutely reflective of what happened in wales 2 weeks ago and has happened again and again during his tenure. His selection and tactics for individual games is bewildering. His man management is woeful. Looking forward to the World Cup pool we have little hope of progressing with Townsend in charge. We need a change. Unfortunately I only see that happening if we lose our next 2 games.

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    • Totally agree. Townsend isn’t the great coach he thinks he is, should never have been appointed in the first place, should have been sent away and told to prove himself first! I can never figure out what his game plan is, usually seems to be “Let’s kick long and see what happens”. We do have good players, but even they don’t seem to understand what is required from them, and Finn just seems to have switched off these days, maybe because he realises there is no real ccompetition for him in the squad. Gregor was attack coach for the Lions. Didn’t see much attack in the Tests, but maybe he was just following Gatland’s orders?

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  13. I’m really fed up with Hogg, Toony or whoever else focusing on the positives, for there are too many negatives to ignore any longer. Stop blowing smoke and take a look yourselves in the mirror, for the team’s performance has fallen a long way short of where it was 12 months ago. Darge though, what a player. Only 21, but he stepped up when the captain, Russell and several other senior players went missing in action. Well done son, well done.

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    • Unfortunately I hope we lose our next 2 games to get rid of Townsend, hes another Alex McLeish, full of hot air, nothing else

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  14. I’m sorry but Townsend is living in dreamland. A couple of penalties? We were beaten by a far better team and gave away a raft of penalties. But alongside that his tactics and team choices did not work.Man up and start picking on form rather than guys that may have done it in the past.

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    • Whilst I absolutely agree with this the penalties today were down to a deeply incompetent ref who made his mind up a few weeks ago who was getting the decisions in the contact area. He was shocking and shouldn’t be anywhere near international rugby…..much like Chris Harris…..not converting a four on one at u14 social rugby would be poor but at international level….should be him done

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  15. I’m sorry but Townsend is living in dreamland. A couple of penalties? We were beaten by a far better team and [email protected] away a raft of penalties. But alongside that his tactics and team choices did not work.Man up and start picking on form rather than guys that may have done it in the past.

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