Six Nations 2018: Scotland coach Gregor Townsend still believes in his squad

By Andy BurkeBBC Scotland
Gregor Townsend oversees Scotland training
Townsend said the "second half of the week has been excellent, with lots of energy in training"
Six Nations 2018: Scotland v France
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh Date: Sunday, 11 February Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: BBC One, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra. Live text commentary, report and video highlights on the BBC website and app.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend says his belief in his players has never wavered despite their dismal opening Six Nations defeat by Wales.

Townsend has performed major surgery on his side, making six changes for Sunday's Murrayfield clash with France.

He argues one poor performance does not undo Scotland's recent progress, and is confident they will show their "true reflection" on Sunday.

"We really believe in this group of players," said the former fly-half.

"We underperformed - it happens every now and again. You don't want it to happen, you think hard about why it happened, and you go to a lot of measures to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"But this is an excellent group of players who have shown that over the last year.

"We have got two huge games coming up at BT Murrayfield [against France on Sunday and England on 24 February] for us to show what we are capable of."

Townsend admitted it had been a "long week" following the Cardiff calamity, and said he takes full responsibility for everything that went wrong.

"The responsibility lies with the coaches and me as head coach," he said. "We put a team out to perform; whether it is selection or how we prepared, the first thing we look at is how we could have done it better.

"Then we look at the performance of the players and the groups within our team, and there are certain things we didn't do which we should do naturally - whether it is working round the corner in defence, or scanning what the opposition are doing. We've spent a lot of time reinforcing that this week.

"We, as a coaching group, and especially the players, believe that what we showed at the weekend wasn't a true reflection of what we are capable of and what we have done throughout 2017."

Much of the criticism following the Wales game centred on Scotland's apparent inability to change their expansive game plan, with Townsend's old British and Irish Lions team-mate Jeremy Guscott labelling them as "clueless", and former Scotland captain Andy Nicol saying "they had no Plan B".

"There are lots of plans in a game, and you have got to adapt to what the defence is giving you, and what is working for you," Townsend responded.

"But you have got to be accurate. Whether you play a certain style of rugby or a multitude of styles, accuracy is the most important thing for that game to be successful.

"We weren't accurate enough obviously [against Wales] in attack and defence."

Scotland ended a 10-year losing run against to France with a 29-18 victory in the corresponding fixture two years ago, but were beaten 22-16 in Paris in last year's championship.

"They are strong in terms of their physical strength in the set-piece, and their physical ability in the tackle," added Townsend of the challenge facing his side on Sunday. "They hit hard, come hard for the ball and have some great individual players.

"Against Ireland they got better as the game went on, so they are getting to know each other better. They will probably come here with confidence, given it was an improved performance under a new coaching group.

"The players are aware what difference they bring and their strengths, but also areas we hope to expose."