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Six Nations 2021: Gregor Townsend’s thoughts after Scotland’s epic win in Paris

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.

Perhaps a little weary from the previous night’s celebrations after the epic victory over France in Paris, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend took time to address the 2021 campaign.

There was praise for his team resilience and directly for captain Stuart Hogg’s leadership this year. Townsend believes multiple Scots deserve to go on the Lions Tour to South Africa, while declining to confirm the rumour he is being sounded out as an assistant for Warren Gatland.

In the meantime Scotland can now challenge for the Six Nations, he feels, and this summer there will probably be a short series of games, mostly at home, but with the focus on developing more young players.

Here’s the highlights of Townsend’s comments…

Friday night in Paris

“I think the character they showed to come back from behind, and the response we showed when we got the red card, was superb.

“Even though we have had two defeats this year, in all the games we’ve shown the same spirit. It’s a credit to the players that they have got the physical capability to keep going and the togetherness to adapt and overcome anything that comes our way.

“We’re obviously disappointed that it’s not better than fourth place in the end, but the effort that we put in – in the first and the last game in particular – merits better than fourth place in the table.”

Can Scotland now challenge for the title?

Stuart Hogg in the huddle.

“We’ve challenged in every game we’ve played in the last two years. We’ve won six and had four games when we’ve been within seven points, so that’s being in a position to win every game.

“Stuart (Hogg) spoke about this having to be the start of the journey to what this team can achieve.

“We play this wonderful tournament every year. We’ve got a World Cup in in two years now at the same stadium as we played last night. Performances like last night will give us confidence against any team we face that we can win if we get our best performance out on the park.”

Should more Scots go on the Lions Tour this summer?

“They should, absolutely. Going into Friday’s game, we felt we were the two best teams. In attack and defence stats we were first and second with France in most of the categories.

“To win away in France and London, no other team has done that during the last two years. You’ve got to then say that the players have put themselves in position to be on that tour.

“I felt last night, in the Twickenham game and even the Wales game where we played well for a lot of the match, our players have put their hands up. I’m sure we have made it a lot tougher (for Warren Gatland) than it was four years ago, and four years before that.”

What’s next for Scotland?

“We have the summer tour window, which has yet to be confirmed but we will definitely have some rugby to play.

“We’ll hope we will have a number of our players back in and there will be a two of three week period when we will have some games.

“I don’t know yet who we are playing – Georgia, Romania, Spain are options. Japan playing the Lions (at Murrayfield) and we may be able to do something around them, there are discussions around that.

“There are also discussions around playing England in a friendly, a development or an A game.”

Will you blood youngsters?

“I would hope so. Jamie Dobbie and Rufus McLean were invited to training as full members and we’re seeing how they’ve progressed for (Glasgow).

“We had two 18-year-old second rows training with us this last two weeks, Max Williamson and Alex Samuel, so they’re very young. But there are players coming through. I’m sure there will be opportunities for those young players but it’s up to them now, they’ve got two or three months left of the season to play well for their clubs.

“We have Cam Redpath who has played just the one game for us and what a game that was. Josh Bayliss also came into our squad, so we hope they’re all available and fit and playing well enough to get into our squad for the summer.”

How impressed have you been by Stuart Hogg as captain?

Hogg and Townsend prior to Friday’s game.

“You think back to those first two games last year when he had to go through a couple of errors on the field. He had to deal with a lot off the field and get his team going in the right direction.

After the autumn he has really stepped up as a person and captain. The first role as a leader is to play well and he has done that. Against England he was outstanding, among the best he has ever played for Scotland. He brought us back in the Wales game to almost winning and yesterday he had a yellow card which wasn’t really his fault, it was a team penalty, and he showed good composure.

“He is really growing into a really great Scotland captain. Of all our players he is the one that cares most about Scotland’s place in history. He loves Scottish rugby and Scottish history so he is aware of how big these two wins have been this year.

Duhan van der Merwe

Friday’s winning try, van der Merwe’s second of the night.

“Going into the game he was close to the best stats ever for tackle breaks in a Six Nations, Brian O’Driscoll said that. I’m sure he would have broken it last night. That’s phenomenal to be up there already in your first Six Nations.

“To score four tries in his last two games shows he’s a finisher too, not just a tackle breaker.

“He’s great in our group, really integrated well with the squad. He works hard at training, and you see the transfer into the game.

“He’s a young player as well and something different. We don’t seem to naturally produce that player who is so strong, but he’s got passing skills and good under the high ball. There’s a lot more to come from him.”

Hamish Watson

Hamish Watson.

“What a Six Nations’ he’s had. He’s been really consistent and he gives you more than a usual openside with his ball carrying. His tackling has been outstanding, I don’t think he’s missed a tackle.

“He runs hard into contact and can bounce out of tackles, but also has a high number of ball carries. That’s the best I’ve seen him play on a consistent basis.”

Chris Harris

“We are massive fans of Chris, he has been great for us this last couple of years. He defends well and that is a huge part of winning test matches. We knew the challenge the French would bring in that 13 channel and their wings.

“But he brings more than just defence. He brings focus in attack too. We have real depth in that position with Huw (Jones) playing really well too. The conditions maybe did not suit an open game but we were keen to get Huw on. We moved Chris to the wing and he did a good job there.”

“Virimi Vakatawa had a quiet game, mostly, but was the same 12 months ago. Sam Johnson and Chris did a really good job on their attack, and on (Antoine) Dupont too, in both games.