Press Conference: Townsend claims Scotland were good but know they can be better

Gregor Townsend revelled in his side’s togetherness as a much-changed Scotland ran in a record 52-10 bonus-point victory over Italy at BT Murrayfield.

Gregor Townsend revelled in his side’s togetherness as a much-changed Scotland ran in a record 52-10 bonus-point victory over Italy at BT Murrayfield.

Having made seven changes to the side that lost 27-24 to Ireland in Round 4, the hosts fell behind early but battled back to score eight tries and return to winning ways.

Captain Luca Bigi put the visitors in front but hooker Dave Cherry – making his first Scotland start – and Duhan van der Merwe both dotted down twice, while Darcy Graham, Huw Jones, Scott Steele and Sam Johnson all also crossed the whitewash.

The victory is Scotland’s biggest Championship win but, with a final round fixture against France to come, Townsend is still expecting his side to move up a few gears.

“We knew it would be a challenge given it was a brand new team, players starting for their country for the first time,” Townsend said. “Players starting in new positions for the first time.

“So, to get that level of togetherness in the first half was encouraging. To get the bonus point in the first half was probably above expectations and it’s an impressive result.

“But, we probably won’t be satisfied when we look back on the game on a couple of areas we could have done better. We always strive to be as close to our best and we know we could have probably taken a few more opportunities.”

A head injury to Finn Russell meant captain Stuart Hogg made his first international start at No.10 but he adapted well and was one of a number of men to shine.

Hogg pulled the strings from the fly-half channel but it was the performances of Cherry, van der Merwe and Jones that particularly stood out.

Cherry not only showed power and presence to cross twice but also was precise at the lineout while van der Merwe was a bruising presence all over the pitch and Jones, making his first start in more than a year, was a menace in midfield.

The individual showings impressed their boss, who is hoping a similarly free-flowing game will suit his side next week.

“It’ll be a nicer feeling on Monday, a nice feeling during the game as well, a lot of players got touches of the ball. It was great weather to play rugby,” Townsend added.

“To see players in the first half score tries, to see some excellent tries, I thought Duhan’s [van der Merwe’s] try in the second half was world class

“That was the positives. But we know to get the best feeling that we can create, it’s winning away from home next week in France.

“I loved his [Stuart Hogg’s] enthusiasm right from training on Tuesday, can’t remember my days, and Thursday.

“To pick up a new position, to have to organise the attacking side of it, to have to defend in the frontline a lot more than he’s been doing lately and to ask questions of the defence was very good.

“We obviously scored four or five tries in the first half and Stuart had a big part to play in that.

“I think we saw the individual ability of some of our players, particularly in the backline.

“Duhan [van der Merwe] has got this ability to break tackles, so has Sam Johnson and Huw Jones and Darcy Graham who were all doing that well.

“It’s good to see the ball in the backs hands more, it’s good to see those backs looking for ball as well.

“It can give us confidence in an environment next week where you hope it’ll be good weather, you hope it’ll be an open game and, given that it’s a one-off last weekend fixture of the Guinness Six Nations, they’re usually games that are a bit more open so it should suit the players we have in our squad.”