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Townsend: What Scotland must now do to 'deliver something special'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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There was a time when Scotland beating England was the be-all and end-all for them but not anymore judging by the composed manner in which Gregor Townsend didn’t get carried away in the aftermath of Saturday’s latest Guinness Six Nations win over the auld enemy. If anything, what unfolded last year will prey on the mind.

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Having defeated England at Twickenham for the first time since 1983, Scotland crashed at Murrayfield versus Wales, who would go on to win the title in a season where the Scots finished fourth despite three wins from five matches. 

Now that same Welsh opposition are next up for Townsend and co a week after their latest round one win and it was significant amid all the hoopla of a local media revelling in the nourishing warmth of beating England, the Scotland coach was keen to move the narrative on as he is a coach with greater ambition than repeatedly winning the Calcutta Cup. 

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“It is the first time we won back-to-backs and this team have done really well in this fixture,” he admitted. “We have had the trophy four times out of the last five, so it is a game that we know how to get up for and we know we deliver close to our best rugby. 

Today wasn’t close to our best rugby but the standards we have set are much higher than they were a few years ago. It’s great. It’s very good for our team but our team are on a five-game journey here for this championship and we know it is just the first game. 

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“For our people, it means the world to them. I remember in 2000 when we lost every game in the championship, winning the last one against England made the season, made people’s years rather than if we had won three or four games that season. We know how much this means to our supporters and the whole nation, so it is great that we could start with a win but we have got four more games now. If we want to deliver something special we have got to play really well next week.”

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Saturday’s 20-17 win boiled down to Scotland standing firm during a nerve-wracking end game featuring numerous scrum repeats and then staunch defence when England eventually played the ball off the set-piece. “The heart rates of all of us were the highest they had been throughout the whole game,” admitted Townsend, the Scotland boss whose team went into the contest tagged as “red-hot favourites” by England’s Eddie Jones.  

“There was an element of what would happen when the ball would come out of the scrum or would the referee penalise one team or the other? One of the scrums we thought we would get a penalty and then another scrum we thought England might get the penalty. 

“I’m glad it wasn’t decided by a scrum decision and we had to defend and fortunately got the ball back and a turnover. It was always going to be difficult for a team in that weather to try and get a try or force a penalty but I was just really proud of the efforts, first at the scrum and then in the phase defence.”

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