Australia offered a number of training options after pitch snub – Townsend

The Australia players were told not to train on their chosen pitch at Peffermill
The Australia players were told not to train on their chosen pitch at Peffermill
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Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has no sympathy for Australian complaints about being refused access to their chosen training pitch due to bad weather ahead of this Saturday’s Test match between the nations at BT Murrayfield.

Australian media reported that the Wallabies were “seething” after being told they couldn’t use a grass pitch at Peffermill on Tuesday to protect it for an Edinburgh University v Durham University fixture scheduled for yesterday. To add insult to injury for the Aussies, that game went ahead on a 3G pitch due to more bad weather in the Capital.

It was reported that Australia coach Michael Cheika and his squad were given 90 minutes notice that they would not be given access to the pitch.

The Wallabies began training in leave-covered areas off the pitch as calls were made for an alternative venue to be found before finally completing their drills on an artificial surface.

The Australian media reported that an offer from the SRU to use facilities at BT Murrayfield was rejected for fears that their training could be ‘spied on’.

After announcing four changes to his starting line-up for the final autumn Test, Townsend was asked if he could feel any sympathy for the opposition’s plight. “Yes, if that was their only option to train. They had a number of other options I believe,” was his response.

“BT Murrayfield was one of them because I got a call yesterday morning asking if I had any objections. If they could not train because pitches were waterlogged then that was one option. We made a couple of 3G pitches available too so there were options.” Asked if he would have been comfortable using the opposition’s home stadium if the roles had been reversed, Townsend said: “Yes, I would have wanted to train.”

Scotland are based at the state-of-the-art indoor Oriam facility at Heriot-Watt University and Townsend said: “You want to train well. You’ve got to factor in weather. We’ve not trained outside this week, we’ve trained indoors, two sessions. Some coaches don’t like training indoors or on artificial surfaces. We feel we’ve had a really good training session this week. The players have enjoyed being indoors.”

Following last weekend’s near miss against the All Blacks, Townsend has put wing Sean Maitland straight back into his team after he came through a game for Saracens last Friday on his comeback from an ankle injury.

Ryan Wilson returns at No.8 from the shoulder knock he sustained against Samoa, with Cornell du Preez on the bench, while Grant Gilchrist starts at lock ahead of Ben Toolis and tighthead Simon Berghan is given the nod for his first start.

Zander Fagerson is on the bench as he, along with centre Alex Dunbar, continue concussion protocols before getting final clearance to play.

The Edinburgh duo of flanker Hamish Watson and loosehead prop Darryl Marfo have recovered from the niggles they picked up in the epic 22-17 loss to New Zealand but back-rower Luke Hamilton, who made his debut off the bench last weekend, has not made it due to an ankle problem.

Glasgow hooker Fraser Brown, who joined the squad after a speedy recovery from a knee injury, goes straight on to the bench. Townsend has once again opted for units who are familiar with each other from their clubs. He said: “Simon Berghan starts alongside the two Edinburgh front-rows, and Zander (Fagerson) is on the bench alongside two Glasgow front-rows. That will help from a scrummaging point of view.

“Grant Gilchrist – we feel his form merits a start. He has been playing really well for Edinburgh, defensively he has been outstanding this season and he did very well when he came on last week. So, we were pleased with how the second-rows played last week but we felt Grant deserves that start.”