‘Lot more to come’ - Gregor Townsend criticises first-half at Twickenham and calls for Scotland to improve v Wales in Six Nations

Gregor Townsend insists there is a lot more to come from his Scotland team as they look to follow their win over England in round one of the Guinness Six Nations with a victory against Wales at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The coach has made just one change to his starting XV to face the Welsh, bringing back Zander Fagerson after more than two months out with a hamstring injury. The prop replaces WP Nel who moves to the bench, with Simon Bergham dropping out of the squad.

You have to go back to 1996 for the last time Scotland won their opening two matches in the championship but there is an expectation, from the Scottish rugby public at least, that this season’s squad is more than capable of beating a Wales side who come north with their national sport in crisis. Scotland’s bonus-point win at Twickenham last weekend was the ideal start but Townsend said there were aspects of the performance that fell short of the standards set for his squad. He said it wasn’t a case of “backing up” the England display but “improving on it”.

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“The performance probably gets looked at in a different light because we score four tries, and a couple of the tries are worldies, and we win at Twickenham,” said the coach. “Obviously, it’s a brilliant achievement but we have our own standards and some of that first half wasn’t the way we expected it to be, so improving on last week is more important than backing up last week. I think the players knew. At half-time they knew. And during the review it’s important to show the areas we have to improve, and also the areas in which we did well.”

Duhan van der Merwe’s brilliant first-half try against England received praise from Townsend, as did the team move which led to the winger’s second, decisive score late in the game but the coach felt there were parts of the match in which Scotland were bailed out by their defence. “For a lot of the first half we didn’t show enough energy and accuracy and you don’t often get away with that in the Six Nations so it just shows you how the team has come on in terms of its effort, its defence, making up for errors and not losing their shape in defence. So there’s a lot more to come, absolutely.”

There is a determination within the Scotland camp to avoid a repeat of the last two seasons in which they have beaten England in the opener only to lose to Wales in round two. Townsend said this had manifested itself in training, with those members of the squad not selected to face Wales playing an important role. “There has been an edge to training just like there was last week. We’ve had physical sessions and the non-23 have trained really well which has helped. On Tuesday they replicated what we believe Wales [will do] on both sides of the ball. They put us under pressure and we had to adapt under that pressure during that session. We didn’t start that great but we improved. It all seems like they are focused on improving this week, which is all you can ask for from your group.”

Wales opened their Six Nations campaign by losing 34-10 to Ireland while the sport has been rocked by accusations of sexism and misogyny directed at the Welsh Rugby Union.

Scotland team to play Wales (Saturday, BT Murrayfield, 4.45pm. TV: live on BBC)

Zander Fagerson replaces WP Nel in the Scotland starting team to play Wales. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)Zander Fagerson replaces WP Nel in the Scotland starting team to play Wales. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Zander Fagerson replaces WP Nel in the Scotland starting team to play Wales. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs); 14. Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors), 13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors), 12. Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors), 11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh); 10. Finn Russell (Racing 92), 9. Ben White (London Irish); 1. Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh), 2. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), 3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors), 4. Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors), 5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh), 6. Jamie Ritchie (capt; Edinburgh), 7. Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh), 8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).

Replacements: 16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors), 17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors), 18. WP Nel (Edinburgh), 20. Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors), 21. George Horne (Glasgow Warriors), 22. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh), 23. Chris Harris (Gloucester).



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