Six Nations 2019: Gregor Townsend not worried by Scotland doubters

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland
Six Nations 2019: England v Scotland
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 16 March Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Radio Scotland, plus live text commentary on BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app

Head coach Gregor Townsend says he is not worried what the doubters think as Scotland attempt to finish a troubled Six Nations championship with a first win at Twickenham since 1983.

The Scots are 10-1 outsiders with England roaring hot favourites at 1-12.

But Townsend says the odds are not a concern despite a 61-21 drubbing the last time they visited London in 2017 when Vern Cotter was still coach.

"If no-one thinks we're going to win then that's fine," he said.

"We believe we can win and that's what we're working to do. Scotland teams tend to be underdogs on a number of occasions and it usually brings the best out in them.

"We're very motivated and full of energy. There were a lot of positive aspects against Wales, a quality team. We know we have to improve again to win at Twickenham."

'It's a week-to-week game'

Townsend suffered another bout of injuries this week, with Tommy Seymour, Blair Kinghorn and Jamie Ritchie all being ruled out for a selection that has only seven players in the same positions they occupied for the Wales defeat last Saturday.

Sean Maitland comes back into team at full-back and - following on from Stuart Hogg, Kinghorn and Adam Hastings - will become the fourth different player to appear in that position since the start of the championship.

Scotland have lost their past three games against Ireland, France and Wales and, unless they can create history by beating England, they are looking at four straight defeats for the first time since 2015.

Townsend's front-row stays the same but there are changes in the back-row, with Ben Toolis coming in for Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner and Hamish Watson replacing Josh Strauss and the stricken Ritchie.

"Ben has come off the bench and played well for us in the last two games," the coach said. "We also understand that it is a week-to-week game. Players like Jonny and Josh have put a lot of effort into this championship and we feel it's better for them coming off the bench.

"Hamish was an easy decision to make, especially after Jamie being injured. It might have been a selection we would have looked at anyway because Jamie has played a lot of rugby and has taken a lot of hits. Hamish is a great man to replace him. I thought his impact [against Wales] was outstanding."

'It has not been good enough'

Ryan Wilson and Danny Care get to the bottom of the scuffle in the tunnel at Murrayfield

Despite their injury troubles, Scotland have still managed to win a lot of possession and territory in games. Against Wales, in particular, they had more attacking minutes and had a series of opportunities which they spurned on the back of a magnificent Welsh defence but also because of a high error count.

"We have penetrated defences, but we haven't finished," Townsend said. "I think we had six linebreaks to Wales' three at the weekend. It has been an area [the opposition 22] where we've not delivered.

"That's partly due to how good the defences are - you have to work them more than 20 phases to get the breakthrough. Partly it's maybe referee decisions in that area.

"What we are focusing on is how we can do things better. It has not been good enough. Ultimately that is on me, and on us as coaches."

England still have a shot at the title and Townsend believes they are a better side now than they were when his team beat them at Murrayfield last season. The Scotland side that won with great elan that day had Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, John Barclay and Ryan Wilson in the starting XV. All are injured now.

"England are playing better rugby than they were in our game last year," Townsend said. "They have a lot of their big players available who fit around their gameplan which is a lot based around power.

"We want to retain the Calcutta Cup, though. It took a lot of work to win that back. It took 10 years. So we want to make sure we hold on to it for a bit longer."

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