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Townsend: France challenge excites in-form Scotland

Townsend: France challenge excites in-form Scotland

Townsend: France challenge excites in-form Scotland

On the back of a five-game winning run, Scotland are relishing the prospect of testing their mettle against the ‘world’s form team’, according to head coach Gregor Townsend.

A strong second-half showing in Florence saw Scotland come from behind to beat Italy 28-17 in their Autumn Nations Cup opener, and they will look to make it six victories in a row for the first time since 1990 when they entertain France in Round 2.

Fabien Galthié’s charges set the rugby world alight with a string of impressive performances during the 2020 Guinness Six Nations, in which they finished second behind England on points difference.

But the Scots were the only team to get the better of Les Bleus during the Championship – winning 28-17 at BT Murrayfield in March – and Townsend is confident his team can produce a similar performance back on home soil.

While he recognises the threats posed by the likes of Charles Ollivon and Antoine Dupont, the 47-year-old is excited about the prospect of mixing it with some of the biggest global stars, while bidding to extend their lead at the top of Group B.

“New Zealand have lost a couple of games and South Africa haven’t played, whereas France have gone out and scored lots of tries against Wales and Ireland,” Townsend said. “So, they and England look to be the form teams just now in the world.

“We know we’ll have to be at our best to win, but we’re confident. The belief that gets created from winning certainly helps and knowing that one of the top teams in the world is coming to town next week will get our focus.

“The boys can prepare for that game knowing there are some things to improve from the Italy match, but the feeling that they found a way to win on the field will just give them an extra bit of confidence if we have to do the same next week.

“We’re on a good run at the moment but our mentality never changes. You go out to win for Scotland – that would be the case if we had five defeats in a row or five wins in a row.”

The mouth-watering clash in Edinburgh will be France’s first of the Autumn Nations Cup campaign, after their Round 1 tie at home to Fiji was cancelled due to an outbreak of Covid-19 in the away camp.

Having originally planned to rest some of his biggest hitters against Scotland, Galthié has reversed that decision following their absence from the field and will now name his star players among the starting XV.

And despite having prevailed in the teams’ last meeting, Townsend is clear Scotland are preparing to be fiercely tested in the last match of the second bout of Autumn Nations Cup fixtures.

He added: “If they had come with a different team it would have presented a really different challenge. There was certainly no [Romain] Ntamack, [Virimi] Vakatawa or Teddy Thomas – all their top players.

“They would have brought a tough game when the expectation, the pressure to win, was off, and players we don’t know that much about.

“But they came with their strongest team in March and brought the best out in us. We’ll have to rise up to that challenge next week.

“They’ve moved on since then. I think they’re playing excellent rugby. They know what their game is just now and they’ve got some players in top form, so it will be a big challenge for us.”

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