Scotland rugby head coach Gregor Townsend praises players for togetherness during record-breaking victory against Italy

Scotland rugby head coach Gregor Townsend has praised his players for the togetherness they showed to come from behind to run up a record score against Italy yesterday, March 20.

Sunday, 21st March 2021, 5:03 pm
Updated Sunday, 21st March 2021, 5:30 pm
Gregor Townsend, head coach of Scotland, prior to yesterday's Guinness Six Nations match against Italy at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Townsend singled out fellow Borderer Stuart Hogg for praise for how well he adapted to starting in a new position, as fly-half to fill in for Finn Russell, out through injury, rather than his usual full-back role but said he was proud of his whole new-look team after their 52-10 bonus-point victory over Italy at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium.

The 47-year-old had made seven changes to the side that lost 27-24 to Ireland the weekend before, including bringing Darcy Graham, another ex-Hawick player, back into his starting XV.

That move paid off as Graham, 23, was among the Scots’ try-scorers, along with David Cherry twice, Duhan van der Merwe also twice, Huw Jones, Scott Steele and Sam Johnson, as they recorded their biggest-ever championship win.

Gregor Townsend, head coach of Scotland, talking to fellow Borderer Stuart Hogg before yesterday's Guinness Six Nations match versus Italy at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

“We knew it would be a challenge given that it was a brand new team, with players starting for their country for the first time and players starting in new positions for the first time, so to get that level of togetherness in the first half was encouraging,” said former Gala and Border Reivers star Townsend.

“To get the bonus point in the first half was probably above expectations, and it’s an impressive result, but we probably won’t be satisfied when we look back on the game about a couple of areas where we could have done better.

“We always strive to be as close to our best and we know we could have probably taken a few more opportunities.”

A head injury sustained by Russell against Ireland led to captain Hogg, 28, making his first international start at No 10 as he picked up his 84th cap, and his performance in that unfamiliar position impressed his boss.

“I loved his enthusiasm right from training on Tuesday and Thursday,” he said.

“To pick up a new position, to have to organise the attacking side of it, to have to defend in the front line a lot more than he’s been doing lately and to ask questions of the defence was very good.

“We obviously scored four or five tries in the first half, and Stuart had a big part to play in that.”

Townsend added: “It was a nice feeling during the game to see players in the first half score tries, to see some excellent tries.

“I thought Duhan’s try in the second half was world class.

“A lot of players got touches of the ball.

“It was great weather to play rugby.

“Those were the positives, but we know to get the best feeling that we can create it would be winning away from home next week in France.

“I think we saw the individual ability of some of our players, particularly in the back line.

“Duhan has got this ability to break tackles, and so have Sam Johnson and Huw Jones and Darcy Graham, who were all doing that well.

“It’s good to see the ball in the backs’ hands more. It’s good to see those backs looking for ball as well.

“It can give us confidence in an environment next week where you hope it’ll be good weather, you hope it’ll be an open game, and given that it’s a one-off last-weekend fixture of the Guinness Six Nations, they’re usually games that are a bit more open, so it should suit the players we have in our squad.”