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Townsend explains Scotland's wholesale changes

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'It was actually going to be 15 changes... but Stuart Hogg was very keen to play'

Gregor Townsend says he had initially planned to change the entire starting XV for Saturday’s match against France at Murrayfield but was persuaded to keep star man Stuart Hogg in the side because the full-back feels he needs more game time after coming off early with cramp last weekend.

Scotland slumped to a demoralising 32-3 thrashing in the first of their four World Cup warm-up games in the south of France on Saturday evening, but Townsend has backed his side to bounce back in the rematch if they get their basics right.

He has made 14 changes to the starting line-up, meaning the vast majority of players in this weekend’s team were not directly responsible for the debacle in Nice, but the head coach insists that the side which will take the park on Saturday are hurting just as much from the result as the individuals who did play.

“The plan over the first two weeks was to play the majority of the squad and put two teams out that we believed were strong enough to play Test matches,” Townsend said. “Obviously, that wasn’t the case last week, and now it is up to this group of players to rectify that on Saturday.

“It was actually going to be 15 changes at one stage but, seeing as Stuart Hogg left the field early with cramp, we decided that he could do with another game. He was looking pretty sharp before he came off and he was very keen to play. We have reflected a lot on the build-up to last weekend’s game – the week’s training, the day itself, what we could have done differently as coaches.

“We focused a lot on ourselves going into the build-up. In normal Test matches, we’d probably look at the opposition 20-30 per cent and ourselves 70-80 per cent, but, in this case, it was a lot about our game and we obviously weren’t able to impose our game in attack or defence.

“So, it has narrowed our minds. It was a painful lesson for players and coaches that we have to do much better in the build-up, and we have to deliver a much better performance in the game.

“We’ve seen how the players have reacted in training and how they’ve reacted in their meetings – their focus and edge compared to last week has certainly been present in training.”

– Press Association 

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'It was actually going to be 15 changes... but Stuart Hogg was very keen to play'