Townsend: England clash is our biggest game every year

Gregor Townsend 8/3/2020
Gregor Townsend is not shying away from the challenge awaiting Scotland in their 2021 Guinness Six Nations opener against England, describing it as their “biggest game every year”.

Gregor Townsend is not shying away from the challenge awaiting Scotland in their 2021 Guinness Six Nations opener against England, describing it as their “biggest game every year”.

Scotland finished fourth in last year’s Championship after defeating Italy, France and Wales before backing that up with fourth-place finish in the Autumn Nations Cup.

But they will travel to the reigning Guinness Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup champions in the opening round of the 2021 edition for a stern examination of their own title credentials.

England defeated Scotland 13-6 at BT Murrayfield to claim the Calcutta Cup 12 months ago and speaking at the official 2021 Guinness Six Nations virtual launch, Townsend relished the rivalry.

“It’s a tough one for the opener isn’t it? The team that won last year’s Six Nations and the Autumn Nations Cup on their own patch but it focuses our minds,” said Townsend.

“We know we’ll have to be at our best to be in a position to win that game and we’ve also got to look at how we can improve from our last campaign, the last Six Nations and the autumn.

“It’s the biggest game every year for us, for our players and especially for our people, our nation. It’s a game we’ve played most regularly, 150 years this year from the first time we played them.

“And we also play for a trophy so it is the biggest game wherever it comes in the calendar, coming first means that the focus going into the next week will be really sharp.

“We’re playing one of the best teams in the world, a team that won last year’s Six Nations so why not have it as the first game? You want take on each of these challenges we get.

“And there’s no bigger than England away so it means we will up our energy even more next week at training and the realisation that we will have to play our best to win.”

Scotland have named a squad featuring a mixture of youth and experience for the Championship, with Cameron Redpath among those who could make his international debut.

Centre Redpath, who is the son of former Scotland captain Bryan, is also joined in the squad by fellow uncapped players Ewan Ashman, David Cherry, both hookers, and lock Alex Craig.

And while Townsend has not set a specific target for what he wants his side to achieve, at least publicly, he stressed the importance of continuing their upward curve from 2020.

“We don’t really have a target, we just want to improve each time we come together so obviously an improvement from last year’s Six Nations and the autumn,” he added.

“We know that you get new challenges each time you come together with the opposition and with the various things you have to adapt to but we’ve been pleased with the progress in 2020.

“A lot of players have got to play international rugby as well so they are more prepared and ready for this huge tournament that we play every year, the focus will be on improvement.”

Stuart Hogg will captain Scotland once again and the two-time Player of the Championship echoed Townsend’s words about the importance of their curtain-raiser against England.

“For us it is a massive game for everybody involved in Scottish rugby and Scotland as a nation so we’re really excited and it’s not often you get two weeks prep going into an international,” said the full-back.

“We’re really excited about the challenge of going down to Twickenham and playing one of the best teams in the world. You give them time and space they will be dangerous.

“If you get in their face and make it confrontational then it makes for a tasty encounter so we’re excited for matchday, massively excited for it, and we have a couple of weeks to make sure we’re the best place possible to go to Twickenham and pick up a win.”