Townsend: We'll need to be at our best against France

Townsend: We'll need to be at our best against France

Gregor Townsend says his players will need to raise their game against France at BT Murrayfield this weekend, as they look for their sixth win in a row.

The two sides met in Edinburgh in March - the last game played before the COVID-19 lockdown - with Townsend's side winning 28-17 that day.

Speaking ahead of the Autumn Nations Cup clash, he said: "This week we know there are a lot of things we can do better and we'll have to do better to take on France.

"France were going to bring a squad with 30 new players, but with the Fiji game called off [last weekend] it's back to the squad which would have played Fiji. They are full of confidence and have played really well through the Guinness Six Nations.

"France kicked the ball a lot less against us in March than they had done in other games. They looked to attack against us and we defended really well that day. We have to be ready for sniping runs from Antoine Dupont.

"We know we're playing one of the best teams in the world right now, probably the form team in the world and we'll have to up our game to get a win against them."

Scotland kicked off their Autumn Nations Cup campaign with a 28-17 bonus-point win over Italy, with Scotland scoring four tries through Duhan van der Merwe, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings and George Turner.

Despite taxing maximum points from the clash with Franco Smith’s side, Townsend is looking for improvements in some areas.

He added: "We got a bonus-point win against tough opposition who played well, so we're delighted to start the tournament with a win and take maximum points, but there are some areas to improve.

"We just couldn't get any momentum into our game in the first-half, largely due to the way Italy played, I thought they were excellent. A lot probably had to do with the penalty count which went against us. That gave Italy field position and opportunities to go at us.

"Our defence looked comfortable for most of the game and it was great to see the improvement in the second-half. We went a period of 37 minutes without conceding a penalty in the second half, which was a big change from the first half.

"The belief and togetherness of the team helped us in the second half. We had more ambition in our game and I thought the bench had a very good impact."

Townsend was pleased with the performance of Duncan Weir, who returned at fly-half with Finn Russell and Adam Hastings out injured, along with Player of the Match, Duhan van Der Merwe, who was making only his second start in a Scotland shirt.

He said: "I thought Duncan [Weir] played really well. He attacked and defended well and he almost got the reward of a try. He kicked really well too and if teams win, often the half-backs have played a big part of that and Duncan played well.

"Duhan [van der Merwe] has been excellent in training. He works really hard and is very competitive, he is getting on the ball and defending well at Test level and there is more to come from him, like the rest of the team, but it was pleasing to see his performance on Saturday.

"All our players are competing really hard for positions in training and lifting the quality of our sessions. They're putting really good effort into games, especially around our defence and we're tough to beat. With some of the individual strengths we have, we know we've got players who can score tries and do really well in attack."

Gregor Townsend has a few injury concerns ahead of Sunday's game, but he's hopeful the likes of Fraser Brown, George Horne and Jamie Ritchie will be fit.

"Jamie [Ritchie] got a head knock in a tackle and failed his HIA, so he'll be on the return to play protocols, just like Fraser Brown was following training the other day. We'll need to wait and see if he's available for France.

"We'll need to see how Rory [Sutherland] is, he got his ankle trapped in a scrum, the pitch was cutting up quite badly. It's an ankle injury, serious enough to take him off the field, which usually means it's going to be more than a couple of days."

Scotland v France is live on Amazon Prime Video this Sunday (kick-off 3.15pm).

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