Scotland rugby head coach Gregor Townsend says he’s proud of his team despite loss in Ireland and fourth-place finish in Six Nations

Scotland rugby team head coach Gregor Townsend says he was proud of how his players performed against Ireland yesterday, March 19, despite suffering their third defeat of this year’s Six Nations tournament.

By Darin Hutson
Sunday, 20th March 2022, 6:36 pm
Updated Sunday, 20th March 2022, 6:36 pm
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

That 26-5 loss in Dublin consigned the Scots to a finish in the bottom half of the table for the fourth year in a row.

They ended up fourth, with 10 points from five games, level on points with England but 15 short of table-topping France’s tally of 25 and only six ahead of basement side Italy.

That defeat was accompanied by news of a breach of discipline by team captain Stuart Hogg and fellow Borderer Darcy Graham the preceding weekend, along with Sam Johnson, Sione Tuipulotu, Finn Russell and Ali Price.

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Scotland captain Stuart Hogg after yesterday's Six Nations defeat by Ireland in Dublin (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The six players breached protocols by visiting a bar in Edinburgh after returning from their 33-22 victory over Italy in Rome, but ex-Gala star Townsend was keen to draw a line under that breach of the rules, saying it had been dealt with and the matter is now closed.

“Things happen. What happened on Sunday was disappointing – so was today’s result – but in groups, in families, you have these moments where you can choose to come together and learn from it, and I believe that’s what the team did throughout this week with the way they trained and the way they fronted up today,” said the 48-year-old after Saturday’s match.

“Rightly, you’ll be talking about the result, which is the main thing, but I saw a performance that was better than most of our performances this year, certainly with the way we started the game and into the second half.

“I was proud of what the team did following the incident at the weekend.”

Darcy Graham being tackled by Ireland's Jamison Gibson-Park and Jack Conan yesterday (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Asked about the previous weekend’s breach of the rules by Hogg and his team-mates, Townsend said: “We’ve put a statement out already about this. It’s a private matter, and private discussions and decisions have been made within the group. Anything on the back of that is just gossip.

“We’ve moved on from that and there’s nothing more to say. Nobody was ejected from the squad.

“We dealt with it in-house and had our best training week of the championship.

“I’m not going into details about something that happened with our group. Things happen in groups, rugby-related or non-rugby-related.

“It's what happens afterwards that matters. I wouldn’t call it an incident, that’s too strong a word, but I was delighted with the reaction of the group and how we focused on our task.”

Hawick’s Hogg, 29, was equally keen to put the previous Sunday’s breach of discipline behind him, saying: “We held our hands up. We knew we’d made a mistake.

“We just got on with preparing in the best possible way. It was a challenging week, but we had one of our best weeks of preparation and really stuck together.

“We talk about staying connected as a team. The players, the coaches, the management is what matters. Everything else is irrelevant to me.

“I apologised. I held my hand up. I said I’d made a mistake. It’s something that hurt me for a long time, but the first 40 minutes was some of the best rugby we’ve played so I’d rather concentrate on that.

“What's out there is out there. For us, we’ll just keep everything in-house. We don’t want to concentrate on that when we’ve just put on a very good performance that we’re proud of for the large majority.

“I don’t know how many times I can say I apologised and put my hand up. I knew I’d made a mistake.

“As leader of the side, I’m bitterly disappointed with what happened. I was annoyed and frustrated but I can’t go back and change anything.”

Both Hogg and Graham, 24, started yesterday’s match, along with ex-Melrose and Southern Knights player Rory Darge.

Hogg, Scotland’s all-time top try-scorer, is now on 93 caps, with Graham on 27 and Darge, 22, on four.