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'I was pretty annoyed that Gregor had to say that' - what Townsend told the Scottish boys at halftime in Florence

By PA

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Stuart Hogg admits it took a half-time telling off from Gregor Townsend for Scotland to come out fired-up in Florence.

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The Scots made it five straight wins for only the second time in the professional era as they opened their Autumn Nations Cup campaign with a 28-17 win over Italy.

But for an hour that run looked under serious threat from the Azzurri at the Artemio Franchi Stadium.

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Matteo Minozzi’s stunning try capped off a brilliant first-half display from Franco Smith’s side but the game swung in Scotland’s favour after Townsend told his team they were not working hard enough to stop their hosts dominating the breakdown.

Italian points dried up after the break and the visitors – who grabbed the afternoon’s opening try through Duhan Van Der Merwe – were able to see out victory with further scores from Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings and George Turner.

But Hogg was stung by his coach’s interval rebuke and the skipper revealed he warned his team-mates that must be the last time they allow their commitment levels to be called into question.

He said: “We didn’t really turn up for the first half. It was a bit disappointing but we got there in the end, which we’re chuffed to bits with.

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“Gregor touched on the fact we weren’t working hard enough (at half-time) and as players that hurts us.

“I was pretty annoyed that Gregor had to say that.

“It gave us the kick up the backside we needed. I said to the boys at half-time that nobody questions our workrate or our physicality again.

“We turned that around in the second half and got the result.”

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Townsend may have had to use the hairdryer treatment at the break but he was full of praise for the way his team turned the game around.

“I’m sure the belief helped the togetherness of the team,” said the coach, who will now look to become the first Scottish boss in 30 years to mastermind six consecutive wins when they host France next weekend.

“The determination to win saw us up the intensity around the breakdown. We were slow to a couple of breakdowns in the first half that cost us penalties but that was much better in the second half.

“We showed more ambition in our game too. We got our back three on the ball much more in the second half.

“Was it a ragged win? Yeah that’s probably right but that seems to be the case a lot when we come over to Italy.

“But we still managed to get a bonus-point win against top opposition who played well so we’re delighted to start off the tournament with maximum points but there are obviously some areas to improve.”

It was an eventful afternoon for Duncan Weir on his first start for the national team in four years.

The Worcester Warrior, standing in for injured stand-offs Finn Russell and Adam Hastings, was flattened in the build-up to Minozzi’s impressive team try and had a score disallowed after a Sam Johnson forward pass.

But he did play a vital role in Fagerson’s touchdown with a couple of brave, flat passes and also kicked eight points at the scene of boyhood heroes Rangers’ 2008 Uefa Cup semi-final triumph over Fiorentina.

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Gregor Townsend /Getty

Townsend – who fears Rory Sutherland is a doubt for the Les Bleus clash after he was forced off with an ankle injury but hopes to have Jamie Ritchie back after a head knock – said: “I thought he played really well.

“I thought it was hard for our half-backs in the first half as we couldn’t get that momentum, which was being stopped through penalties and a couple of mistakes around the breakdown.

“But to see him keep up the attack, defend really well, almost get the reward of a try and to kick really well and to kick his goals was great.

“If the teams wins then often the half-backs have played a big part and Duncan played well today.”

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'I was pretty annoyed that Gregor had to say that' - what Townsend told the Scottish boys at halftime in Florence

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