Gregor Townsend feels Jaco Van Der Walt is comfortable on international stage

PA

Gregor Townsend believes Scotland new boy Jaco Van Der Walt already looks at home on the international stage after thrusting him into action against Ireland.

South Africa-born Van Der Walt became eligible for his adopted nation in the middle of November and only joined up with the squad last week having returned from his wedding in his native country.

The Edinburgh fly-half made a positive impression in Dublin, kicking 11 points as Scotland slipped to a 31-16 loss in the Autumn Nations Cup third-place play-off.

Scotland v France – Autumn Nations Cup – BT Murrayfield Stadium
Scotland v France – Autumn Nations Cup – BT Murrayfield Stadium

Head coach Townsend selected five different players in the number 10 jersey during the tournament and hailed Van Der Walt’s maiden outing as a “big positive”.

“I thought he did really well, he kicked very well. He was comfortable at international level,” said Townsend.

“There were a couple of errors just down to probably excitement, first time playing on that big level.

“But he should be really pleased with how he performed. And that’s on the back of two training sessions really.

“To come in for your first cap on the back of quarantine, meeting your new team-mates and training with them for the first time and then to produce a performance like that – that’s a big positive.”

After three Van Der Walt penalties rewarded Scotland with a 9-6 lead for their strong start, a 30th-minute yellow card for Duncan Taylor turned the contest in the hosts’ favour.

Van Der Walt converted Duhan Van Der Merwe’s superb second-half score but the Scots were unable to mount a fightback having fallen behind to two Keith Earls tries and one from Cian Healy.

Ireland v Scotland – Autumn Nations Cup – Aviva Stadium
Ireland v Scotland – Autumn Nations Cup – Aviva Stadium

Despite the defeat, captain Stuart Hogg feels his side have plenty of reason for optimism ahead of their 2021 Six Nations campaign, which begins at reigning champions England on February 6.

“We feel we’re on the right track to achieving something special,” said Hogg.

“We know we are nowhere near the finished article – you never are going to be – but the fortunate thing for us is we understand where we are going wrong.

Ireland v Scotland – Autumn Nations Cup – Aviva Stadium
Ireland v Scotland – Autumn Nations Cup – Aviva Stadium

“We understand where our mistakes are happening.

“I am proud of the boys’ efforts, I am proud of how much we stuck in there.

“The big thing I asked the boys was to empty the tank and show what it means to play for Scotland. In large parts we did exactly that.”

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