Gregor Townsend urges players to turn Twickenham trauma into a steely determination

Coach Gregor Townsend hopes the trauma of Twickenham two years ago can be channelled into a determination to set the record straight rather than act as a haunting hex as Scotland look to end a disappointing Guinness Six Nations campaign in a positive manner tomorrow.

Thursday, 14th March 2019, 9:00 pm
Gregor Townsend was upbeat and spelling out the positives during his press conference

The Scots travel to London, where they haven’t won in 36 years, trying to add to their solitary win over Italy in week one against a side who humiliated them 61-21 two years ago.

“That [record Calcutta Cup humbling] is something I know they have discussed as a playing group,” said Townsend, who took over the national job from Vern Cotter a couple of months after that rout, which scuppered hopes of a first Scottish Triple Crown in 27 years, and presided over a glorious reclaiming of the oldest international trophy last February.

“Those that were there two years ago certainly don’t want that to happen again,” he added. “That was a tough day for everyone who is a Scotland rugby supporter and for the players who had to go through it. First of all we have to be much tougher to beat but we also have to take our game to the opposition as well.”

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Townsend has made six changes from the side that lost 18-11 to Wales for tomorrow evening’s tournament finale, which could see England gunning for the title if Grand Slam contenders Wales slip up in Cardiff earlier on ‘Super Saturday’.

Saracens’ Sean Maitland takes over at full-back in the absence of Stuart Hogg and Blair Kinghorn through injuries, while Sale wing Byron McGuigan replaces Tommy Seymour, who damaged ribs against the Welsh.

Glasgow centre Sam Johnson earns a recall at No.12 in place of clubmate Pete Horne, who drops out of the squad.

The starting back-row features two of the three pack changes where Edinburgh openside Hamish Watson, who made a stunning comeback from a broken hand off the bench against Wales, will earn his 25th cap in place of Jamie Ritchie, who has not recovered from the head and neck injury at the weekend.

Versatile Exeter Chiefs forward Sam Skinner – who suffered a concussion in the opening round win over Italy – returns to blindside in place of Sale’s Josh Strauss – who drops to the bench – with Edinburgh’s Magnus Bradbury wearing the No.8 jersey for the first time in what will be his seventh cap.

Edinburgh lock Ben Toolis starts in place of Jonny Gray, who is on the bench, alongside his clubmate Grant Gilchrist to form an all-capital pro team tight five.

Townsend, who made his Scotland debut at Twickenham 26 years ago, is unruffled by the fact that his team have been widely written off as having much chance of recording a first win away to the auld enemy since 1983.

“I think two years ago a lot of people were tipping Scotland to win,” said the Scotland coach. “A lot of people thought we were favourites.

“We tend to rise to the occasion of playing teams that are better than us in the rankings and that’s been shown over the last few seasons and obviously with history and the way England are playing we’re going to have to rise to the occasion this week.

“We have tended to rise to the occasion when we’ve been underdogs in the past. We’ve not handled being favourites as well as being underdogs, that’s for sure.”

Scotland: 15, Sean Maitland; 14, Darcy Graham, 13, Nick Grigg, 12, Sam Johnson, 11, Byron McGuigan; 10, Finn Russell, 9, Ali Price; 1, Allan Dell, 2, Stuart McInally (c), 3, Willem Nel, 4, Ben Toolis, 5, Grant Gilchrist, 6, Sam Skinner, 7, Hamish Watson, 8, Magnus Bradbury. Subs: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Simon Berghan, Jonny Gray, Josh Strauss, Greig Laidlaw, Adam Hastings, Chris Harris.

England: 15, E Daly; 14, J Nowell, 13, H Slade, 12, M Tuilagi, 11, J May; 10, O Farrell (c), 9, B Youngs; 1, B Moon, 2, J George, 3, K Sinckler, 4, J Launchbury, 5, G Kruis, 6, M Wilson, 7, T Curry, 8, B Vunipola. Subs: L Cowan-Dickie, E Genge, D Cole, B Shields, N Hughes, B Spencer, G Ford, B Te’o.

Saturday. 5.00pm. Twickenham. Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand).