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Townsend backs Weir to seize Scotland opportunity

Townsend backs Weir to seize Scotland opportunity

Townsend backs Weir to seize Scotland opportunity

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has every faith in his squad to adapt to the loss of Adam Hastings and Finn Russell when the Autumn Nations Cup gets underway next weekend.

Both fly-halves left the field injured in Scotland’s final match of the 2020 Six Nations last Saturday, as Townsend’s side rounded off the Championship with a 14-10 victory in Llanelli.

Russell will be on the sidelines for the next six weeks with a groin strain, while Hastings could miss as much as four months of action after requiring surgery on a shoulder injury.

The versatile Stuart Hogg finished last weekend’s match at fly-half in Wales, but with Worcester Warriors No.10 Duncan Weir set to deputise in Scotland’s Autumn Nations Cup opener against Italy in just over a week’s time, Townsend is confident with his squad’s ability to deal with the setback.

“Our depth will be tested,” the Scotland boss said. “It will be tested now at stand-off with both tens injured, it will be tested throughout this Championship as we look to retain some positions.

“Playing for your country is all about opportunity, so someone else gets an opportunity now, with Duncan we know we have someone who is playing regularly for a club that plays open rugby, so he will fit in very well with what we are trying to do.

“He’s playing the best rugby of his career, there’s a calmness in the way he plays, there’s an accuracy in his passing and his kicking game, and he’s so passionate.”

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Scotland will travel to Florence next weekend to face Italy on the back of a Six Nations campaign that saw them rack up three victories, finishing behind Ireland in fourth on points difference.

One notable feature of the Scottish game throughout the Championship was the tremendous rearguard action which saw them concede just five tries in their five matches, the lowest of any team.

This will be a different Italy side to the one that Townsend’s side defeated 17-0 in Rome back in February though, with Franco Smith opting for youth in his squad selection for the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup.

With up-and-coming players like fly-half Paolo Garbisi catching the eye in recent weeks, the Scotland boss is well aware of the threat his side will face, but will be looking to get off to the perfect start in Group B.

“It looks like they’ve changed their style a little bit from the pre-lockdown Six Nations, they were playing very ambitious rugby and moving the ball from their own half a lot,” Townsend said.

“Now they seem to be kicking more, they’ve almost doubled their average for kicks, so that makes it a different challenge.

“You could be getting more ball to counter-attack with, but also you’re in your half, so we have to be smart around what we do with our ball.

“They bring their own strengths which tends to be based on their physicality, their back row is outstanding, they have three excellent ball carriers that are also really good post tackle.

“They know, like we do, that if we can start with a win you’re in with a chance of going far in this tournament.”

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