Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend promises ‘more to come’ after beating France
Gregor Townsend declared there is more to come from Scotland after seeing his side put the brakes on France’s Grand Slam quest.
Having started their Guinness Six Nations campaign with defeats to Ireland and England, things have taken a turn for the better for the Scots after they followed up victory in Rome with an impressive 28-17 triumph over Les Bleus in Edinburgh on Sunday.
Fabien Galthie’s new-look outfit took the lead against the run of play thanks to Damian Penaud’s try.
But Mohamed Haouas’ moment of madness swung the game back in the Scots’ favour, the prop red-carded for landing a punch on Jamie Ritchie’s chin.
Townsend’s men have struggled to make the most of their attacking opportunities this campaign but, with just 14 men to contend with, they finally found their verve.
Sean Maitland crossed in the minutes either side of half-time before Stuart McInally sealed a precious win that ended the visitors’ hopes of a first clean sweep since 2010.
Now the Scotland boss is predicting more of the same when his side travel south for next Saturday’s game in Wales.
“I’ve been really encouraged right the way through the campaign,” Townsend said. “The two weeks before the Ireland game was shown in the way we played, how physical we were and how we were able to play at a real pace and create opportunities.
“Yeah, we didn’t win and left a couple of tries out there, but we’ve been consistent throughout. Even the England game, we were proud of how we came back in that second half.
“We have been in the fight in those two defeats. But these two wins showed the mentality and confidence to get out and find a way to win.
“And there’s more to come, more defensively even though we’re doing that area well.
“You get confidence when you see the rewards you get for doing something, and the way we’re training, it really gives me a lot of encouragement.”
The sending-off was a turning point but Scotland had been on top from the start.
Adam Hastings continues to grow at stand-off in Finn Russell’s absence, Hamish Watson and Ritchie made themselves a menace with their breakdown skulduggery while new skipper Stuart Hogg looks more and more comfortable with the captaincy as the weeks go by.
And Townsend reckons it would be harsh on his team to see their performance diminished by too much focus on Haouas’ act of folly.
He said: “Obviously (the red card) is important but I thought we played better in the first half than the second half.
“We had France on the back foot and we turned them over nine times in the first half in the way we defended, and we had opportunities getting in behind them.
“Sometimes a red card can really help you, but I felt France coped with being one man down. It gave them a bit of a kick-start to play more rugby to try and win.
“They’re a very dangerous team when they’re offloading and counter-attacking. Who knows? If you have a one-man advantage it’s better than having the same numbers but I thought we played really well when it was 15 against 15.”
Scotland will now aim to make it three wins on the trot at the Principality Stadium – and Townsend hopes the coronavirus will not throw a spanner in the works.
England’s trip to Italy has already been called off amid fears over the outbreak but Townsend has heard nothing so far to suggest the Dark Blues’ final game of the tournament is under threat.
“Six days, a lot can change,” he said. “We’ll see. We’re not crossing any borders, we hope the game will go ahead because you put a lot of work into a championship to make sure you play all the games, but the decision will obviously be made for the right reasons.”