Gregor Townsend backs Scotland’s ‘framework’ to help them handle Ireland

  • Coach excited as Stade de France showdown looms
  • Scotland need ‘their best performance’ in a World Cup

The Scotland head coach, Gregor Townsend, believes excitement among his squad will intensify before their decisive showdown with Ireland in Paris on Saturday.

An 84-0 demolition of Romania in Lille on Saturday night – Scotland’s second consecutive bonus-point victory – has set up a Pool B eliminator against Andy Farrell’s side at Stade de France.

“The players put huge effort in to get the feeling they had on Saturday night, being with their families and so many Scots fans,” Townsend said after the 12-try defeat of the Oaks with Darcy Graham scoring four times.

“It goes up another few levels this week. Stade de France, 80,000 people, it will be a brilliant atmosphere. It’s really a knockout game. I know it’s not a straight knockout, but it’s either we do the job and get to the next stage, or we don’t and we’re out.

“It’s why we have put the work in over the past four months since we started [Rugby World Cup training] on 29 May. We’ve put all these hard lines in for a reason, and it’s to deliver our best performance this week.”

The possibility remains of Pool B’s qualifiers being decided on points difference, but should Scotland win while denying their opponents a losing bonus point, they would be into the last eight on head-to-head record against Ireland.

The defeat of Romania at Stade Pierre-Mauroy was as one-sided as it gets, and the Ireland match on Saturday will be much tighter, but Townsend wants Scotland to try to get the ball wide against Farrell’s side while also pointing out the lineout has been an area of recent concern for their Six Nations rivals.

“We play with width,” Townsend said. “We have a framework to how we play, but we want players to be taking opportunities: seeing them, communicating them, grabbing them. We encourage them to play. In defence, we want the ball back and to be very physical. In terms of set piece, yes there are going to be challenges in the lineout, but Ireland have had a lot of challenges in their lineout over the last few games. The scrum and lineout are areas where we have shown a lot of growth, and now is the time to bring it out.”

After their attritional victory against South Africa, Ireland will have had a two-week break by the time they take the field at Stade de France. Townsend believes extra training time will benefit Farrell and his squad rather than there being a risk of rustiness.

“From the coaches’ point of view, we quite enjoyed having three extra days of training,” Townsend said of the fortnight’s break Scotland had after their opening defeat by South Africa.

“The players then got stuck into Tonga and scored four tries in the first half of that game, so it didn’t affect us. I’m sure Ireland have been able to work on their game and how they believe they can take us on.”

Asked if it will require the best performance in the history of Scottish rugby to make the quarter-finals, Townsend said: “I believe we’ve never beaten a team ranked above us at a World Cup, so it probably will take the best performance from a World Cup perspective.

“To beat the No 1 team in the world, that doesn’t come around very often for teams like us in Scotland, but we have an opportunity and we’ll have to deliver our very best.”


Luke McLaughlin in Villeneuve-d'Ascq

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