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Townsend: These players seem born to play Test rugby

Townsend: These players seem born to play Test rugby

Ewan Ashman Scotland Townsend

Some players are just born to play Test match rugby and after Ewan Ashman’s dream debut, Scotland coach Gregor Townsend believes the hooker falls into that category.

The 21-year-old from Sale was including in the matchday 23 to face Australia after Stuart McInally was ruled out with illness earlier in the week.

And when George Turner limped off with a rib injury barely ten minutes into the game at BT Murrayfield, Ashman was thrown in at the deep end.

He absolutely thrived in the situation and to cap off a fine display, produced a stunning finish in the corner that ended up being decisive in a 15-13 success.

A prolific try-scorer at Under-20s level, Ashman’s progress to the senior set-up has felt inevitable for a while, although the cancelled summer tour denied him a first cap.

And while there had been interest from England, including coach Matt Proudfoot travelling to visit Ashman to see if he would be interested in wearing the Red Rose, the dream of playing for Scotland was always his priority.

And for Townsend, the way Ashman has taken to Test rugby, like Rufus McLean a week ago against Tonga, is one of the more pleasing aspects of the successive victories to kick off the Autumn Nations Series.

The Scotland coach said: “Ewan’s had to wait, which is what we said to him after the game when we presented his cap, but he’s only 21. So he’s not had to wait that long.

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“He’s been so keen to play for Scotland. He was such a proud player when he played for the Under-20s, he’s not had a huge amount of opportunities this year for Sale but he’s always come into camp humble and ambitious.

“With Stuart getting ill, he got his opportunity this week, and then with George getting injured he got his opportunity early in the game and thrived in the Test match arena which is not an easy thing to do. That is probably one of the most pleasing aspects of the past two weeks, seeing these players getting their first caps or first starts for Scotland who seem born to play Test match rugby.”

The standout moment for Ashman was undoubtedly his second-half try, somehow holding off the tackle of Izaia Perese to get over in the corner and dot the ball down before the rest of his body went into touch.

It was similar to a try he scored for Sale against Exeter, with Townsend even more impressed this time around.

He added: “He scored one a few weeks ago exactly the same, he did a play up the short side with Sale and as the cover defence came across, he had to dive so his feet were out of play but he managed to put the ball down.
“He got good practice but this was an even tougher finish because the defence was closing in on him but it was a brilliant way to get your first cap to Scotland.”

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