Reaction: Townsend plots to halt Welsh charge

G Townsend SB19
As he plots the downfall of the current unbeaten leaders of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, Gregor Townsend needn’t trawl too far through the annals for inspiration.

As he plots the downfall of the current unbeaten leaders of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, Gregor Townsend needn’t trawl too far through the annals for inspiration.

Scotland head into Round Four tasked with rolling out the red carpet for Wales, who currently top the Championship standings with three wins from three as they prepare to visit BT Murrayfield.

But Townsend’s troops have pedigree for derailing title charges, having put paid to England’s 100 per cent record in Round Three of last year’s Championship, defeating Eddie Jones’ men 25-13 in Edinburgh.

And more than a year on, the Scotland head coach is urging his side to recapture the spirit they showed when regaining the Calcutta Cup in February 2018.

“They [Wales] have a very good record against us and are in excellent form,” said Townsend.

“It’s a similar challenge to the one we faced last year against England, who had also been on a very good run of results in their preceding games.

“We rose to the challenge that day and found a way to win, and I firmly believe we can reach that level of performance once again on Saturday.”

Captain Greig to lead from the bench

As they look to flip the script on Wales, who have won ten of their last 11 Test meetings with Scotland, Townsend will look to channel the experience of captain Greig Laidlaw – from the bench.

The 33-year-old will begin Saturday’s showdown as a replacement, with the hosts shuffling their pack and making four changes to their starting line-up.

Ali Price will start at No.9 but Townsend is still backing Laidlaw to have an impact on proceedings.

“Greig [Laidlaw], having started in our last six games, is a key member of our squad, although this week, we have decided to utilise his leadership and experience off the bench,” said the Scotland chief.

“He is driven by a desire to win for his country and he should have an important role to play in the latter stages of the match at the weekend.”

Can Townsend add the right ingredients?

In a bid to get his team back on an upward curve following their loss to France in Round Three, Townsend has injected a mixture of both youth and experience into his starting XV to face Wales.

At the greener end of the scale, 21-year-old wing Darcy Graham will add unpredictability and exuberance, while the talented Finn Russell – a British & Irish Lion – returns from a head injury to form a half-back pairing with Price.

WP Nel is also introduced at prop, with the likes of Simon Berghan and Sam Johnson dropping out as Townsend attempts to conjure up a complete performance that will see his team halt Wales in their tracks.

“While there have been some strong moments in our games this campaign, we have yet to deliver that quality and focus for 80 minutes and play to our potential,” he said.

“We have had a couple of weeks since our defeat in Paris to look at ways we can improve our performances through what we do in training, our tactical approach and through selection.

“First and foremost, we select a team we believe gives us the best chance of winning at the weekend, while we also have an opportunity to reward players who have been in very good form and have been knocking at the door of the team in recent weeks – Darcy Graham and Ali Price especially.”