Six Nations: Gregor Townsend calls on Scotland to rise to the occasion against France

Dylan Coetzee
Gregor Townsend

Scotland's head coach, Gregor Townsend.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has called on his players to take their game “up a few levels” for their Test against France on Sunday.

Townsend’s men have had a fantastic campaign thus far, winning their first two games as they bucked their second-round hoodoo.

Scotland face a tough challenge this week against a French side who will be desperate to bounce back from a painful loss against Ireland last time out.

Another step up needed

But Townsend knows his players can elevate their game even further at the imposing Stade de France in Paris.

“We were tough on the players going into the Wales week, and rightly so because in the past we haven’t backed up our first performance going into the second week of the Six Nations and also because we believed there was much more to come from the group,” he said.

“We feel the same way this week. I think the players realise what a big test this is going to be, playing one of the best teams in the world on their home patch, at a venue we haven’t had much success (at) over the past 100 years.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge but we can match that challenge. We can improve from the Wales game. Going into a game like this on the back of wins is a much better place to be than if you’re coming off the back of defeats.

“You’ve got that confident feeling about how you’re playing and you’ve also got evidence that what you’re doing is leading to good things.”

The coach has made few changes with Hamish Watson’s return to the starting line-up at the expense of Luke Crosbie, the main alteration.

“We give consideration to every player who’s in the mix for selection,” said Townsend. “The easy thing would be to go ‘we’ve won a game, let’s not even have a discussion, let’s move on to the next game’.

“You want to reward players that are playing well but I’ve said ever since the Wales and England games, we’re not playing at our best yet. We need to go up a few levels.

“That can come through the team that get the second opportunity or it can come from other players we feel can help us improve. The standard of training has made selection difficult but to bring back Hamish Watson and Ali Price, who have played very well for us in the past and have been showing in training that they are ready to go again, that’s the situation you want to get in.”

Ready for his return

Watson was not considered for selection in the opening two rounds after having limited game time on the back of concussion issues from the autumn. However, Townsend feels the influential star is ready to return to the Test arena.

“Hamish has trained well and had two games so we believe he’ll be back at the level we know he can play at,” said the coach. “We believe he’s a good foil for the way France want to play and also adds speed to our attack.

“While it’s tough on Luke Crosbie and Jack Dempsey, who was also in the mix, it’s a good thing for us to have that level of competition.

“Hamish is in our leadership group, he was captain for us in the summer in Argentina. He’s really stepped up as a leader over the last year or two so that experience can help from a psychological level when players look around and see someone who’s been there 50-plus times for Scotland. It’s down to Hamish to deliver, and that’s what we’re expecting him to do.”

READ MORE: Scotland: Hamish Watson returns to start crunch Six Nations clash against France