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Townsend's take on Scotland being restricted to just five Premiership picks versus France

By Liam Heagney

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Gregor Townsend has claimed that the current situation where Scotland have just five Gallagher Premiership-based players available to them for Friday night’s Guinness Six Nations re-fixture versus France is more preferable to the alternative of playing the match later in 2021.

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With Lions tour selection still up for grabs, the Scotland boss is satisfied that the rescheduled Six Nations match versus the French is taking place the week after the championship’s round five finale – even though he has had his selection restricted by the English clubs.

Limited to picking just five players who earn their club wages in the Premiership, Townsend admitted that having five available was better than zero as that was the prospect he faced last Saturday before an agreement was eventually struck between the PRL, the SRU and the Six Nations.

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It means Townsend can start skipper Stuart Hogg, centre Chris Harris and second row Sam Skinner while having Alex Craig and Scott Steele ready and waiting on the bench at the Stade de France rather than being forced to choose nearly an entirely Scottish club-based team.

“It’s much more satisfactory than I thought it was going to be on Saturday when none of our (Premiership) players were going to be available and we were putting together a team from home-based players and Finn Russell.

“So it’s a much better situation. I’m glad that we did get a resolution that players would be available, not all of them but most of them,” explained Townsend, who had to leave out other English-based players such as Saracens’ Sean Maitland, a starter last weekend versus Italy.

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“He [Maitland] was really disappointed, as was Jamie Bhatti who has been on the bench for us for the last two weeks and then other players who might have come into consideration, players like James Lang, Duncan Taylor, Cornell du Preez who have been in our squad. Cornell du Preez was actually supposed to be on the bench when we were playing France the last time (the February 28 postponed game).

“So yeah, it’s disappointing for them, it’s disappointing for someone like Jonny Gray and others who picked up an injury and is not able to play in this game, but the focus is on the 15 and the 23 that are playing this week and are ready for his massive challenge.

“Look, it’s a complex situation in that the game was called off… in the past when Six Nations games have been postponed they have been played months and months later, sometimes the following season which is what happened last year, and in 2001 with the foot and mouth outbreak.

“So to get us a situation where we are playing the week after the end of the Six Nations, that is something the public would want and in a Lions year, it’s good that we are getting to play now and not wait until September, October. While we have not got all our players everybody in our squad and in our public are very keen that this game goes ahead this weekend.”

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Townsend has made four changes to his starting XV following the win over Italy. Fit-again Russell and Ali Price step back in at half-back, Harris returns in midfield while George Turner is chosen at hooker. Meanwhile, fit-again Adam Hastings has made the Scotland bench for a match where the starting France XV shows five changes from the last-gasp victory over Wales which kept alive their Six Nations title chances.

 

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Townsend's take on Scotland being restricted to just five Premiership picks versus France

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