Gregor Townsend looks to experience to get Scotland back on track

Starting XV for second Six Nations fixture against France will contain 132 more caps

Gregor Towensend has made six changes to his Scotland XV for Tuesday’s clash with France. Photograph: Andrew Mulligan/PA

Gregor Towensend has made six changes to his Scotland XV for Tuesday’s clash with France. Photograph: Andrew Mulligan/PA

 

Gregor Townsend believes it was not the “true” Scotland that well well beaten by Wales in their Six Nations opener.

Now he is backing his players to show what they are really made of as they look to salvage their hopes in the competition at home to France on Sunday.

Townsend’s team were expected to mount a serious championship bid this year after their impressive autumn performances.

But they fell flat on their faces coming out the blocks as an error-strewn display at the Principality Stadium was punished by Warren Gatland’s ruthless Dragons, who cantered to a 34-7 triumph.

Scotland will now hope to get back on track against Les Bleus at BT Murrayfield this weekend, but Townsend does not reckon there is a fundamental flaw in his team’s make-up.

“The responsibility for last week lies with the coaches and myself,” said the head coach, who has made six changes to the team which will take on Jacques Brunel’s side. “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.

“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.

Believe

“But I really believe in the group of players. We under-performed — 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 that have shown that over the last year.

“Our focus is now on France. We have two huge games coming up at Murrayfield to show what we are capable of and, in the context of the championship, we will see after this weekend where we are.”

The Dark Blues XV which starts on Sunday will contain 132 more caps than the side humbled by the Welsh.

Townsend has recalled former skipper Greig Laidlaw as well as centre Peter Horne, wing Sean Maitland, prop Simon Berghan, lock Grant Gilchrist and number eight Ryan Wilson.

Scrum-half Ali Price — whose intercepted pass handed Wales’ Gareth Davies the crucial opening score in Cardiff — is joined on the bench by last week’s starters Jon Welsh, Ben Toolis and Chris Harris. Cornell du Preez and the injured Byron McGuigan drop out of the 23-man squad.

Now the head coach hopes that injection of experience will ensure his side do not lose their heads like last week.

He said: “We hope it will be a really important factor. The players coming in to start this week showed energy when they came on last weekend. In Greig and Ryan, specifically, these are guys who have been captain or vice-captain of the team in the past, so they get their opportunity this week.

“Greig has got a lot of experience. He’s been captain of the side for a couple of seasons. He drives a lot of the standards off and on the field, so having him back in the group last week was already a positive and seeing him play so well and being desperate to be back in the team will help others around him.”

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