Gregor Townsend tells officials to stop England going offside

‘It will be interesting to see whether they stay onside,’ says the Scotland head coach

Gregor Townsend has suggested the match officials for the Calcutta Cup match this weekend have a particular responsibility for ensuring England's defence stay onside.

The Scotland head coach, who has named an unchanged team for the Six Nations game at Murrayfield on Saturday, took care not to directly accuse England of habitually offending but he is well aware that by highlighting the matter it will be given greater scrutiny.

“It will be interesting to see whether they stay onside,” Townsend said. “We watched the game last year and we’ve watched their games over the last few weeks and to generate that line speed, especially off first phase …

“You’ve got to make sure you stay 10 metres back off lineouts before the ball is delivered and you don’t get beyond the back foot of the ruck in phase play. If they’re able to do that and still generate line speed, then we have to deal with that with the way we structure our attack.”


Asked if he expects England to be offside, Townsend maintained his diplomatic stance while calling attention to the possibility.

“I can’t say in the future but you’d need to look at their last few games to see whether they do come offside. That’s down to the refereeing team this week to see if it does happen. We’ll meet on Friday, so we’ll see what we’re going to talk about over the next few days.”

The remarks were made at a press conference in which the coach praised Finn Russell, the outhalf who was replaced at a critical point in the win against France two weeks ago. “There was no doubt he would start [against England],” Townsend said of the Glasgow No 10. “He played well in the France game. “I believe that if Finn had stayed on the field we would have won the game and potentially had a couple more tries.

"The reason we took him off was to get [the scrumhalf] Ali Price on. And, at the time we felt Greig [Laidlaw, who stayed on] would be important – goal-kicking was a key factor in order to get ahead of France on the scoreboard."

The Scotland bench shows three changes from the game against France. The tighthead Willem Nel returns from injury to replace Jon Welsh, Tim Swinson is in at lock for Ben Toolis, and the centre Nick Grigg takes over from Chris Harris.

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