Six Nations

Townsend: Fans can help us start strongly

Gregor Townsend
Focus: Gregor Townsend (pic: SNS Group)

Gregor Townsend is looking for a sold-out Murrayfield to help give Scotland the perfect start to their Six Nations bid next weekend against an injury-hit England who will be without skipper Owen Farrell.

He was ruled out of the entire championship with an ankle injury, while Jonny May is also sidelined with a knee injury and Manu Tuilagi (hamstring) faces a race against time to play any part in this year’s tournament.

Supporters will be present for the first time in nearly two years and Scotland’s head coach believes the backing from the stands will be key to conquering an England team that will still present strong opposition.

He said: “I believe it’s the most eagerly awaited game we’ve had for a few years. The Six Nations is a brilliant tournament, it’s a real privilege to be involved in it, and to have crowds back this year makes it even more special.

“We know this is the biggest game we face, it’s such a historic fixture. We’re playing for a famous trophy and it’s 151 years old. To have it first up adds to the buzz around the Six Nations. It will focus our minds next week.

Will Farrell
Owen Farrell: out

“The games in November were excellent in terms of seeing fans back when we arrived at the stadium, the noise they generated when we came on to the field and how they helped us through those games. So to have them there for our biggest fixture of the year will be a great boost to us.

“We’ve also got three away games this year so we’ll also have to handle those occasions where the crowd are against us and for the home team. But everyone involved in rugby can’t wait to play in front of supporters again for this Six Nations.

“We’ll have to balance that excitement, and all the emotions that occur when you take on England. It has created a nice edge to our training performances, but we have to balance that with clear focus and bring our best rugby in order to win.”

The curtain goes up on the Scots’ campaign with the visit of Eddie Jones’ side on Saturday, 5 February and they will be hoping for a repeat of last season’s opening fixture in the tournament, when they recorded their first win at Twickenham since 1983.

Scotland head to Wales after the Calcutta Cup clash before hosting France in Edinburgh, their campaign closing with two away games in Rome and Dublin.

“It’s about delivering over five games,” added Townsend.

“We know, if we do that, we’ll be in the mix at the end of the tournament. And the first game of the championship sets you up for a good tournament as the Six Nations is all about momentum.”

Duhan Van Der Merwe and Kyle Rowe have both been ill this week and forced to sit out training, while Josh Bayliss has been missing due to the effects of concussion. All three should be back in the fold as Townsend steps up his preparations at the squad’s training camp from Sunday.

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