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Scotland glad they are playing England next after November effort

By PA
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend is already relishing the Six Nations opener away to England. The Scots rounded off their autumn series with an impressive eight-try victory over Argentina and are now able to turn their attention towards their Calcutta Cup showdown in a little over two months.

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Townsend’s team are unbeaten in their last two visits to Twickenham and the head coach believes a clash with the auld enemy is the perfect fixture to kick off 2023. “England are always going to be tough at Twickenham,” he said.

“Although we won there the last time (in 2021), we are aware there were no supporters there that day (due to the covid lockdown). It’s a really challenging place to play. We have gone there on the last two occasions and come away with a draw and a win so we will go there with confidence.

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“We will cross our fingers that we have everybody to select from but it’s a great game to start the Six Nations with, as we have done the last couple of years. It’s a good one for us to get our focus back on improving our performance.”

Townsend is pleased that Scotland have three home games – against Ireland, Wales and Italy – and just two away matches, against France and England, in the upcoming Six Nations. “It’s good for the country,” he said.

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“To play three home games is obviously better than playing three away games because you have got the supporters here and, from a coaching perspective, there is less travel so it’s an easier week to manage. That home support gives you more energy and it’s about harnessing that energy into scoring more points than the opposition.”

Townsend believes it is hard to predict how the Six Nations may unfold because of the increasingly competitive nature of world rugby. “The Six Nations is its own standalone tournament so you have got the crowds, the form of teams comes up for those big games, and nothing is consistent,” said Townsend. “There will be teams that play really well one week and not as well the next week. World rugby is very competitive just now.

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“Argentina have knocked off New Zealand and England and they didn’t win over the last two weekends, and there are other teams in similar situations. Italy have been very good. They finished the Six Nations beating Wales and since then they have gone up against Australia and looked really dangerous.”

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finn 8 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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