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Autumn Nations Cup

Townsend’s verbal volley sparks Scottish comeback

Talk: Gregor Townsend (pic: SNS Group)

Italy 17 Scotland 28
Stadio Artemio Franchi

Scotland will aim for a sixth straight victory when they host France next weekend after a hard-fought win in Florence.

The hosts were their usual plucky self on home soil and gave the Scots plenty to think about, particularly in the first half which they ended in the ascendancy at 11-7 in front.

Stuart Hogg revealed that a verbal volley from Gregor Townsend at the interval was the catalyst for a vastly-improved display and set them up nicely for the visit of the French, when six wins on the spin for the first time in 30 years is the target.

“We didn’t really turn up for the first half,” said the full-back. “It was a bit disappointing but we got there in the end, which we’re chuffed to bits with.

“Gregor touched on the fact we weren’t working hard enough [at half-time] and as players that hurts us. I was pretty annoyed that Gregor had to say that.

“It gave us the kick up the backside we needed. I said to the boys at half-time that nobody questions our work-rate or our physicality again. We turned that around in the second half and got the result.”

Duhan Van Der Merwe, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings and George Turner all went over for Scotland, with Duncan Weir converting all four scores on his first start for his country for four years.

“The determination to win saw us up the intensity around the breakdown. We were slow to a couple of breakdowns in the first half that cost us penalties but that was much better in the second half,” said Townsend.

“Was it a ragged win? Yeah that’s probably right but that seems to be the case a lot when we come over to Italy.”

Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt, Exeter Chiefs); Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Harris (Gloucester), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Duhan Van Der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby); Duncan Weir (Worcester Warriors), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors); Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally (both Edinburgh Rugby), Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings (both Glasgow Warriors), Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs), Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson (both Edinburgh Rugby), Blade Thomson (Scarlets).

Subs: George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) for McInally (60 mins), Oli Kebble (Glasgow Warriors) for Sutherland (15 mins), Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) for Fagerson ()65 mins), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) for Haining (60 mins), Nick Haining (Edinburgh Rugby) for Ritchie (12 mins), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Exeter Chiefs) for Price (70 mins), James Lang (Harlequins) for Johnson (69 mins), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) for Graham (65 mins)

Scores: Italy – Try: Minozzi; Penalties: Garbisi. Scotland – Van Der Merwe, Fagerson, Cummings, Turner. Conversions: Weir (4).

Elsewhere in the inaugural tournament, England thrashed Georgia 40-0 at Twickenham, while Ireland defeated Wales 32-9 in Dublin in the competition curtain-raiser on Friday night.

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