Townsend backs squad for hat-trick of wins over England

Gregor Townsend insists his Scotland squad are ready to conquer Twickenham for the second time in three years to continue their recent dominance over England.

Gregor Townsend insists his Scotland squad are ready to conquer Twickenham for the second time in three years to continue their recent dominance over England.

Scotland defeated England 11-6 at Twickenham in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, their first victory at HQ since 1983.

They were at it again a year ago at BT Murrayfield, coming back to win 20-17 to win back-to-back Calcutta Cups for the first time in 38 years.

This year they go in search of a third consecutive win over England, a feat they have not achieved since winning three in a row between 1970 and 1972.

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Townsend is aware of the size of the task Scotland have coming back to a packed-out Twickenham Stadium, but he believes his side are capable of winning these big games.

He said: “We know what a big challenge coming to Twickenham is, it was 38 years since we had won when winning in 2021.

“While we played really well two years ago, there were no supporters there that day, so we know this is a bigger challenge.

“We do believe though that the team are ready for that challenge, the way we have evolved for the last couple of years since then, but in particular our games in autumn.

“But it will be a big test for us the first game of the Championship.”

Since Townsend took over from Vern Cotter in 2017, Scotland have won three and drawn one of their five matches with England, only losing narrowly in dire conditions at BT Murrayfield in 2020.

It is a staggering run considering prior to his appointment, Scotland had won just one of the previous ten Calcutta Cup clashes.

He puts the impressive run in his tenure down to two things.

“There are probably a couple of things that really stand out, which are accuracy and belief,” he added.

“The accuracy in 2018, especially our passing that day was excellent, defensively for 50 minutes we held firm, and that probably gave us a belief to go on over the last four years with a game and a group of players that know they can win if they play well.

“You have to match England up front, if you can get an edge in that area then even better, but I thought our pack performed really well two years ago and they will have to do that again next weekend.”

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Finn Russell has been in stellar form in Scotland’s recent Calcutta Cup triumphs, turning the tide with his cross kick for the penalty try last year, while his second half performance in the 38-38 comeback draw in 2019 was one of the all-time great Guinness Six Nations performances.

But it was another fly-half who caught the eye when selected, Munster’s Ben Healy, who qualifies for Scotland through his mother and is someone Townsend is very excited for.

He said: “He will definitely add to the squad, he is a different type of fly-half from the other ones we have in the squad.

“He has shown over the last three games when he played for Munster that he is thriving in those big games in what could be a challenging time when you commit to another country and another club for next year.

“He is a really good rugby player in terms of knowing the system and being connected, he has got a strong kicking game and he has real physical potential, the way he obviously is built.

“He will add depth at 10, but we have real competition in that position.”