Six Nations

Townsend warns Scots of 'huge' England challenge

Gregor Townsend (Getty Images)
Gregor Townsend (Getty Images)

Edinburgh - Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend warned his players that they face "the huge challenge" of taking on "probably the best team in the world" in their next Six Nations clash. 

In the wake of a hard-fought 32-26 victory over France at Murrayfield, Scotland will entertain England in two weeks’ time.

Thanks largely to six second-half penalties by returning scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw, Scotland overcame a 20-14 half-time deficit to bounce back from their opening day 34-7 thrashing against Wales in Cardiff and kick-start their Six Nations campaign. 

Laidlaw, who plays in France for Clermont, also converted first-half tries by wing Sean Maitland and centre Huw Jones for a personal tally of 22 points against a France side who looked in control after two tries in the opening 26 minutes by wing Teddy Thomas. 

However, second-half indiscipline and the deadly accuracy of Scotland's number nine left them on a run of eight matches without a victory heading into the Marseille clash with Italy on February 23. 

Scotland face England at Murrayfield the following day and Townsend said: "That's going to be a huge challenge. We're playing against arguably the best team in the world over the last two years, given the amount of games they've won - a team that that's very consistent, very tough to beat. 

"They have shown that they find a way to win more often than not and we've got to give our best game. We've got to really put them under pressure for 80 minutes and we'll see what happens after that." 

After the bitter disappointment of Cardiff, however, Townsend was hugely satisfied by what was only Scotland's third victory in 21 matches against France since the turn of the Millennium. 

"It was (satisfying) for our players," said the former Scotland stand-off. "They put a huge effort into today's (Sunday) game. We ground out that win. 

"For us to be able to bounce back, not just after last week, but after a couple of setbacks against a team that looked full of confidence, and to put in that effort in the last 20 minutes... that was outstanding." 

Laidlaw was particularly impressive, making his first international start for 12 months and maintaining Scotland's attacking momentum even when switched to fly-half in place of the ineffectual Finn Russell. 

"He's a very good ten," said Townsend. "He jogged through a few plays in the car park this morning as preparation." 

France head coach Jacques Brunel said the defeat was not as painful as the 15-13 one inflicted by Jonny Sexton's 83rd minute drop goal for Ireland in Paris last weekend. 

"It seemed more cruel last week," he said. "This time it was our mistakes that led to defeat. Scotland made the most of them, especially in the last 15 minutes. 

"It was a lack of discipline. We made a lot of mistakes. That allowed Scotland to come back and win. I don't think it was physical, it was more a lack of control." 

Brunel, who took over from the sacked Guy Noves in December, admitted that he was unhappy with the impact of his replacements. 

"That's obviously when the whole match changed, so I'll have to review the match," said the 64-year-old, who guided Italy to a Six Nations victory at Murrayfield in 2015. 

"But, yes, I am disappointed." 

Asked if he would be reviewing his own approach after a second defeat, Brunel said: "No, I just want to focus on what is positive, and in both matches we could have won. 

"There are still a few things lacking but I think we could still make a difference, really."

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