Rugby-Townsend eager to test his brave Scots against old enemy England

·2-min read
Autumn Nations Cup - Scotland v France

(Reuters) - Scotland coach Gregor Townsend says meeting defending champions England first up in the Six Nations will focus the minds of his players and the fact there will be no fans in the stands is a potential boost for the clash at Twickenham on Feb. 6.

Townsend's team had a strong finish to the Six Nations last year with victories over France and Wales, albeit seven months apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he said there will be belief and confidence that they can cause an upset.

"It's a tough one as an opener, but it will focus our minds," Townsend told reporters on Wednesday. "We will have to be at our best and show how we have improved from the Six Nations last year and the autumn (Nations Cup) series.

"It's the biggest game every year for the players and for our nation. We will have been competing for 150 years this season and we play for a trophy, so it’s a massive occasion."

No crowd in the empty stands due to COVID-19 restrictions could also play into the hands of the Scots, according to Townsend.

"It is an opportunity, we do understand that with 80,000 people not there it doesn’t feel so much of an away game," he said.

"We are just delighted the competition is still going ahead, and that people at home can watch their nations playing, which is a huge bonus in these difficult times."

Townsend could hand a debut to centre Cameroon Redpath, the son of former Scotland captain Bryan, who has chosen to play for the country after also being courted by England.

The capture of the in-form Bath player is a big boost for the side.

"We are looking for him to bring his own strengths, and way of looking at the game and playing. He has a great skillset to go with good decisions," Townsend added.

"Within our camp it is how he can build relationships and how quickly he can get used to the way we play.

"We have had two days so far and he has started well. Young players bring that little bit of energy and freshness to add to what we already have in the camp."

Townsend played down talk of the Six Nations title for his side and said the only target he is looking at is to improve on the platform they laid in the 2020 season.

"We just want to improve each time we come together. We have been pleased with the progress through 2020, and we are more prepared and ready for this huge tournament," he said.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge)