Scotland manager Gregor Townsend explains why this year’s Six Nations will have a different dynamic

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However, the away victories, both exciting in their own way, were achieved in empty stadiums.

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Townsend is honest enough to acknowledge the part he played in leveling the playing field just as he acknowledges the impact an empty Murrayfield had in narrow home defeats to Wales, by a single point, and Ireland, by three.

Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg celebrate with the Calcutta Cup after Scotland’s 11-6 win over England at Twickenham in 2021. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

With Scotland traveling to Wales, Italy and Ireland this season and playing host to England and France, the prospect of playing in front of packed houses excites Townsend, even if he is likely to make his job harder given the match balance. .

“It makes a difference,” said the Scotland manager, speaking at the official launch of the Six Nations. “We have three away games this year so it’s more challenging with the crowd back but we all want them back as the Six Nations games are amazing and a packed crowd at BT Murrayfield is a huge boost for U.S.

“It’s not as big of a challenge as taking on the opposition with a big scrum, but it’s a factor. Wales have always done well in the Six Nations in recent years and probably have the loudest support. We’ve done very well over the last two or three seasons thanks to the sell-outs at Murrayfield as well as the performances of the players, so we know what we have to deal with this year.

“Last year it was 15 players against 15 players with no advantage to either side. This year, the home teams will enjoy their chances more than the away teams. It’s a challenge for us, but we’re up for it and we have to thrive in a noisy environment, whether it’s for or against us.”

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend with captain Stuart Hogg at the launch of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championship. Image: ©INPHO/GUINNESS Six Nations

It all starts one week on Saturday when England visits Edinburgh. If Scottish fans viewed the Calcutta Cup with anything resembling trepidation in the not-too-distant past, the national team’s record in the match under Townsend is something worth celebrating.

Two wins, a draw and a loss against Eddie Jones’s side give the Scotland manager an advantage, with last year’s victory particularly impressive.

Townsend is not one to downplay the importance of the game that has delivered four memorable games in his time in charge. The 2018 victory in which Huw Jones scored a stunning brace was celebrated with much enthusiasm and the following year’s 38-38 draw at Twickenham will go down as one of the most impressive Test matches of all time.

A 13-6 loss at a storm-battered Murrayfield in 2020 is Townsend’s only loss to England as head coach, but revenge was gained last year in that rare win at Twickenham.

Duhan van der Merwe advances for Scotland’s try against England in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations. (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group)

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“We know that it is a great commitment for our players, our country,” he said. “I think most of the teams that play England in the Six Nations is their biggest game, but it is for us. It’s the oldest match in international rugby history and we’re playing for a famous trophy, so it’s a stand-alone game within a fantastic tournament.

“The games have been competitive for the last four years, so that’s a positive for the game. We think it will be a very competitive game, but it is a new game. We cannot refer to 2018 or last year; we have to play the game in front of us. And we must deliver in all areas.

“We know that England will test us up front, they will test us with their attacking play and their defense, and we have to give our best to win those moments, but also to win the match.

“You have to play close to your rugby best to beat a team of England quality. You have to be up front from set pieces and physically, that’s a traditional strength of England.

“We think our strengths are a movement game, a speed game. We did that in 2018 in that first half and at times last year in the first half even though there were wet conditions. But you also have to defend well. In 2018 England had a lot of the ball in the second half, and again last year England had a lot of the ball, so every aspect of your game needs to be in place.

“But for us, we have to be able to get our game out there. It’s not just about taking on a superior team and stopping their strengths: no, we have to get our game out on the field, show the strengths of our players, show what we think are our strengths as a team. And we did it on occasions last year and especially in 2018.”

This will be Townsend’s fifth campaign in charge, making him Scotland’s longest-serving manager in the Six Nations era. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, but his longevity has taught him how to get the best out of his squad, and that it’s not just for rugby reasons.

“I tell the players to be themselves when they come here,” he said. “That’s what we want to see from them as people and as players. It brings out your strengths and in this environment it means we can be ourselves here.

“During the last two seasons, with this group, I felt that those experiences that we have had together I have really enjoyed. It may not seem like the most important thing because there are other things, tactics and techniques, but I think from a coach’s perspective, if you love what you do, that should transfer to the players and help them.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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