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'So much more to come': Townsend's warning after nearly stunning France

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Gregor Townsend was proud of his Scotland side after they went agonisingly close to pulling off a second comeback win over France in the space of a week.


The Scots – who beat Les Bleus from 21-3 behind at Murrayfield last weekend – roared back from 27-10 down in balmy Saint-Etienne on Saturday night to level the match at 27-27 before a 78th-minute penalty from Thomas Ramos secured a 30-27 victory for the World Cup hosts.

The visitors outscored the French by four tries to three and Townsend was buoyed by the way his team stood up to their formidable opponents in front of a partisan home crowd just four weeks before their opening match of the tournament against world champions South Africa in Marseille.

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“It showed a lot for the character and the competitiveness of the group,” he said. “They wanted to win that one, they did all they could to win it. Obviously we’re a bit disappointed that we didn’t do that.

“Even a draw would have been something that we could have taken a lot more positives out of, because we’re here to win. But there’s so much more to come from this team.

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“We showed in the first 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes that we can win ball, our set-piece can be strong, and also we can attack and score great tries. So our job is to put that together for more than 20-30 minutes when we’re playing at our best, but also to do that for much longer.”

The Scots made a strong start and led 10-6 at the half-hour mark, with Ali Price’s 29th-minute yellow card paving the way for the French to seize command in the game’s mid-section.


Townsend rued the concession of two tries in the first four minutes of the second half, but was encouraged by the way his players rallied in the final 20 minutes to give themselves a real chance of only a second away win over France this century.

“I’m really proud of the effort and also how we started the game,” he said. “We were ambitious, accurate and very physical in our contacts. We had to soak up a lot of pressure in that first half when we were a man down.

“But we just missed the first five minutes of the second half. A couple of uncharacteristic mistakes and France got opportunities. I was so proud of the togetherness, the effort, the skill that was on show, and we’re gutted we didn’t get anything out of that. Really disappointed.”

Townsend names his final 33-man World Cup squad on Wednesday, meaning four players will be cut from his current pool.


Asked if anything from the gallant defeat at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard had changed his thinking with regard to selection, the head coach said: “No. I’ve not had much time to think about it.

“I was really proud of the 23 tonight and how they went about taking on a top side. Their focus was on winning the game, not on the World Cup.

“They put their bodies on the line. The effort that the players have put in over the last two months was transferred on to the field. We’re fit enough to have a real crack at this World Cup and we’ll have a lot of players that will be putting their hands up for selection over the next few days.”


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Henry 337 days ago

Scotland are now, it seems, better than England. Because of their coach’s amazing skills? Or because they loaded up on Saffas?! … hey, just kidding. Gregor Townsend can take the credit!!

Utiku Old Boy 337 days ago

A lot to admire about this version of Scotland. Always had plenty of courage and ambition but apart from a couple of errors and discipline issues, they are more accurate now. French look vulnerable at pace and their big men looked to be struggling with fitness. Hard to judge how that unfolds for RWC but at this stage, I'd have to rate the ABs chances against them.

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William 2 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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