Scotland v England: Gregor Townsend dismisses Eddie Jones ‘song and dance’ ahead of Six Nations Calcutta Cup opener

Gregor Townsend has dismissed claims from his England counterpart Eddie Jones that Scotland are "red-hot favourites" for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup showdown at BT Murrayfield.

The Scots won at Twickenham last February and Jones insists all the expectation is on the hosts in this Six Nations contest. However, while Townsend is optimistic about his side's prospects, he pointed out that bookmakers have England as favourites.

"Every coach does this little song and dance going into a game trying to convince the media they are underdogs and telling the players their backs are against the wall, 'we're going to this hostile place'," said the Scotland head coach. "The bookies pick the favourites and I know we're not the favourites with them.

"It's not really something we talk about or worry about. The reason we're being spoken about like that is because our players have driven the standards in training and have gone through experiences - not always pleasant - that have made them better and brought them closer together as a group.

"We have our own expectations, which is to deliver performances that we're capable of. In last year's Six Nations, three games stood out for us where we were close to our best: England, Italy and France. The aim for us is to try to do that in five games."

Townsend believes the overall strength of the teams in the tournament makes the winner hard to call.

He added: "I think the quality of the northern hemisphere teams has gone up a huge amount in the last few years. I remember when I played and spectated, it was usually only really two teams in the running for the Six Nations. But that's changed. That's been proven in the last few seasons.

"Most teams can beat any other team on their day - and we are one of those teams. We had three wins and two narrow defeats last year and it was a similar story the year before, so we've been very competitive. We've just got to make sure we're continuing to make progress."

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has named a settled starting XV for Saturday's Calcutta Cup clash at Murrayfield

Townsend has named a line-up featuring 13 of the 15 players who started the win away to France last year.

Exeter lock Jonny Gray returns to the starting line-up for the first time since the home defeat to Ireland last March.

Townsend said: "Most of our players are fit and available so that's probably a first in all the campaigns I've been involved in. We've got players back from injury who weren't involved in last year's Six Nations and Autumn Tests, and that's a real boost. These players are on form, too.

"Jonny's obviously one of our most experienced players and he sets the standards for us. It's great to have him there."

Message from the editor

Thank you for reading this article. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our sports coverage with a digital sports subscription.