Gregor Townsend confident Scotland can retain Calcutta Cup

  • Thu,14 Mar 2019 05:54:33 PM

It took Scotland a decade to snatch possession of the Calcutta Cup – now Gregor Townsend insists his side are determined not to hand it back again just 12 months later.

The Scots claimed a famous win over Eddie Jones’ England at Murrayfield last year thanks to a display inspired by talisman Finn Russell.

But few outside of Townsend’s camp would be willing to wager whether they can repeat that feat on Saturday and claim a first tartan triumph at Twickenham since 1983.

PA Graphic
PA Graphic

Beset by injuries, it has been a Guinness Six Nations to forget for the Dark Blues having suffered three-straight defeats to Ireland, France and Wales.

There are plenty among the Scotland support who cannot wait for the campaign to be over but a trip to a venue where they suffered a humiliating seven-try 61-21 defeat two years ago remains.

Townsend, however, is adamant his team are heading south looking to win and hopes they will be returning with the precious silverware they won a year ago tucked safely in their cases.

“We are defending the Calcutta Cup and it took a lot of work to win that back,” he said.

“It took 10 years, so we want to make sure we hold onto it for a bit longer.

“We can’t really worry about (the fact no-one expects us to win). If no-one does think we’re going to win, then that’s fine.

“We believe we can win and that’s what we’re working to do this week. Scotland teams tend to be underdogs on a number of occasions and it usually brings the best out in them.”

Russell, Ali Price and Hamish Watson are the only three players who started the 2017 debacle that are in the 15 that will kick-off against Jones’ side on Saturday.

England ran riot on a nightmare day for the Scots but Townsend believes the trio will have had their resolve hardened by the chastening afternoon.

“That’s something I know they have discussed as a playing group,” he said. “Those that were there two years ago certainly don’t want that to happen again.

“That was a tough day for everyone who is a Scotland rugby supporter and for the players who had to go through it.

“First of all, we have to be much tougher to beat but we also have to take our game to the opposition as well.

Scotland suffered a humiliating 61-21 defeat at Twickenham two years ago (David Davies/PA)

“Any experience you have – whether positive or negative – you have to turn into a way of getting better, of being stronger, of using that experience to improve.”

The team followed up with a win the following week against Italy, they went on the summer tour to Australia and won in Sydney for the first time so it had the immediate effect of producing wins after it.

Jamie Ritchie, Tommy Seymour and Blair Kinghorn are the latest additions to a list of casualties that have cut the legs away from Townsend’s team this year.

Ben Toolis
Lock Ben Toolis also returns to face the Auld Enemy (Jane Barlow/PA)

But the return of Watson – whose pinball carries off the bench were a rare bright spot against Wales – and Sam Skinner will provide some much-needed energy from the back-row against an ultra-physical England line-up.

Full-back Sean Maitland, wing Byron McGuigan, centre Sam Johnson and lock Ben Toolis also return to face the Auld Enemy.

Jonny Gray has surprisingly dropped to the bench but Townsend says Edinburgh’s Toolis deserves his slot.

“It is more a reflection on how Ben has been playing both for us against Italy and for his club in the fallow week, two or three weeks ago,” he explained.

“He has come off the bench and played well for us in the last two games.

“Was it an easy call bringing Hamish back? Yes, especially with Jamie being injured.

“Hamish is a great man to replace him. I thought his impact was outstanding, the pace and power he brought in the last 20 minutes was great.”

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