Rugby: Townsend urges on Edinburgh starlet

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Edinburgh winger Lee Jones has been urged to use Friday’s Heineken European Cup clash with Racing Metro at Murrayfield to keep pushing claims for a first Scotland cap in this season’s Six Nations Championship.

The 23-year-old A internationalist grabbed his second touchdown in four matches when he crossed in the opening win over London Irish to impress assistant national coach Gregor Townsend, who said: “Lee is one of a lot of exciting young players.

“Harry Leonard has played well up to pro level and was a very composed man of match against Treviso which not many people would have seen but in which Edinburgh played fantastic rugby.

“Matt Scott has made a very good start to his pro career and it’s very difficult to defend against a player like Lee Jones in the modern game which is erring towards big players who run straight.

“Lee is strong and very hard to mark because he comes off both feet.”

Referring to how Tim Visser provided the inside scoring pass for Jones’s second try in four Euro outings, Townsend said: “Lee’s support play against London Irish was an example of both wingers working together, and Lee knew where the try line was.

“Young players coming through are definitely up for international consideration if they maintain form.

“Scotland made 14 changes between facing Romania and Georgia in the World Cup and that shows there is a lot of competition in the squad.”

Townsend, with his responsibility for attack, has been coming under pressure to provide a sharper cutting edge for the Scotland cause. Speaking at the launch of an eve of Calcutta Cup dinner on February 3 in aid of Help for Heroes and the Bill McLaren Foundation, he insisted: “We had winning positions [in the World Cup] against England and Argentina.

“One of my goals as attack coach is to get as many tries as we can. We are getting close.

“We couldn’t have a better Six Nations match in which to start getting our frustrations out from the World Cup than England at Murrayfield.”

The availability of Tim Visser, Edinburgh’s record try scorer, will come during the summer tour of Australia.

So, would Townsend advocate taking the Dutchman along perhaps with a view to a debut against Fiji or Samoa in the later stages?

“I’m very excited about Visser and we’ll see what happens after the Six Nations. We know he is going to be available which is great because he is one of the best wingers in the game.

“Tim keeps developing different parts of his game such as support play and working on running a line outside the scrum-half which is reminiscent of what another Edinburgh winger, Simon Webster, does very effectively.”

It was from that move that Visser came within a fingertip of claiming a try against London Irish before seeing it ruled out by the video referee, and Townsend hailed Edinburgh’s winning approach.

“Edinburgh didn’t move the ball that much because London Irish come up in defence very quickly. But they were in the game whole way through.” Now comes the challenge of a side who finished runners-up in the French Championship last season, but who lost their opening European tie at home to Cardiff.

Having played for Castres, Brive and Montpellier, Townsend knows the French psyche well and warns it would be dangerous to take the view that the visitors will now concentrate on domestic matters having lost at home in Europe.

“As one of the biggest budgeted teams in France I’m sure Racing will want to come out and play well.

“Sometimes you don’t want to see the team you next play coming on the rebound and it is going to be a tough, tough day for Edinburgh.

“As soon as they see the names of all the international players on the Racing team-sheet they’ll know what is going to be required, but French rugby has changed a lot.

“You get a lot of guys that are quite static in a big pack. It makes for a really physical game, but if Edinburgh can out-think them and move them around on the wide pitch that is Murrayfield they can find weaknesses.

“Edinburgh did that when beating Castres last year and once again they’ll want a low error count and not too many set-pieces.”