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Italy game is ‘must-win’ for Scotland, says Townsend

Italy game is ‘must-win’ for Scotland, says Townsend

Italy game is ‘must-win’ for Scotland, says Townsend

Gregor Townsend has labelled Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup opener against Italy a ‘must-win’ game as he challenges his Scotland side to compete for top spot in Group B.

Scotland go into the tournament full of confidence following their first win in Wales since 2002 and now travel to Florence to take on an Italy side they beat 17-0 in the Six Nations in February.

“Italy will be a very tough opponent and will be targeting this game as a chance to get off to a flyer,” Townsend said.

“We know how important this game is for us. If we want to go far in this competition and get into that final play-off for first and second, we have to start with a win.”

Scotland return to home soil to take on France and Fiji in their other two group games before Finals weekend and Townsend is under no illusions about the challenges both sides will pose.

“France are up there with the best teams in the world right now,” he said.

“They’ve only lost one game this year, they’ve scored lots of tries, and beating Wales and Ireland back-to-back shows their quality.

“They have some of the best players in the world and a dangerous France team when they are full of confidence can beat anyone in the world.

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“We have played them fairly regularly over the past two or three years, so it’s a team we know well and we know they are improving all the time. That will be a really tough challenge for us.

“Fiji have some excellent individuals, a brilliant coaching staff and players at the top clubs in Europe.

“They will be ready to play whatever game suits them winning. That might not necessarily be just through going to their strengths of counter-attacking and turnovers and moving the ball wide, they have power too.

“They may move their game to be more like a Northern Hemisphere team, who knows, we have to be prepared for that.

“We know they will test us in a number of areas.”

Both matches at BT Murrayfield will be played behind closed doors but Scotland are still feeling the weight of their support, with more than 10,000 fans joining the ‘Sign Up for Scotland’ membership scheme.

“It really gives a boost to our players knowing our supporters are behind us, even though they can’t get to games,” Townsend said.

“To feel that connection, to know they are watching us play and keeping connected with what we are doing at training – that’s why we play.

“We play to inspire the nation and give them a boost as much as possible. Who we represent drives us and brings the best out of us.”

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