Townsend looking for continued improvement

Townsend looking for continued improvement

The 2021 Guinness Six Nations gets underway in nine days, when Gregor Townsend's Scotland squad travel to face England at Twickenham.

It will be a unique championship with games being played behind closed doors, at least for the first few rounds.

Yesterday's [Wednesday] official launch was also unlike anything seen before in this championship. The whole event was done remotely via video conference, with cameras and sound equipment installed at Scotland's training base on the outskirts of Edinburgh and in all of the other team's training centres.

Townsend was in an upbeat mood and before he looked ahead to the games, he gave an update on his squad.

He said: "Jamie Ritchie is progressing well, he's on the return to play from his concussion. Everybody else took part in Tuesday's session. We're confident enough he's making progress, he feels much better and he ran yesterday [Tuesday] and had no reaction and he did skill work today [Wednesday]. By the weekend we'll be in a much better position to see if he'll be available for the England game.

"Stuart [Hogg] is fit to play this weekend [for Exeter Chiefs]. Alex Craig stayed with his club this week as he was recovering from a calf niggle, but he should be available to play this weekend.

"Every team is going to be affected by injuries - we have two experienced hookers missing, but it gives opportunities to other players.

"England have got so much depth up front that they can put in quality players and they can prepare with the squad that they have.

"You plan for a type of rugby a team is going to bring and the strengths they have, but ultimately it's down to what happens on the field. How that team plays, what way they are playing and how you adapt to it and get your own strengths out there.

"We expect England to bring a very good game, which is something they've done consistently over the last 12 months."

Townsend constantly demands improvement from his players and this year is no different. Scotland recorded a memorable win against Wales in the final match of last year's championship, which was played in the autumn due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Although they also won at home against Georgia and away against Italy, they suffered defeats to France and Ireland, the latter three coming in the Autumn Nations Cup.

England are one of the form teams in the world right now, having beaten France in the Autumn Nations Cup final and finished last year's Guinness Six Nations as champions.

Townsend knows the challenge which lies ahead in the opening round and that they'll have to hit the ground running in London.

He added: "The level of competition we have in our squad and the quality of player we have here all points in the direction that the belief should be there.

"Ultimately, it's what happens on the day. How you start the game, how you manage the moments England have domination and how you stay in the fight until the end. That's what we're building towards.

"We know the challenge England bring, they're in great form and we'll have to be at our best to win down there, but that would be the goal for all of us.

"England is the biggest game every year for us, for our players, but especially for our fans. It's the game we play most regularly and it's 150 years this year since we first played them. We're playing one of the best teams in the world, the team which one last year's Six Nations, so why not play them first?

"We want to see improvement from game-to-game, consistency and improvement from our last campaign. We want to be a better team every time we get together. Those are things we're looking for, but first and foremost is our next game.

"We'll spend this week getting used to each other, getting used to the principles of our attack and our defence and other part of our game. Next week we'll look ahead to the challenge England will bring and then onto Wales the following week.

"We'll enjoy the process and we'll see where we're at at the end of the championship, but the aim is to improve on the last time we came together."

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