Gregor Townsend: Twickenham humbling of 2017 won’t haunt Scotland players

Coach Gregor Townsend hopes the trauma of Twickenham two years ago is inspiring rather than daunting as Scotland look to end a disappointing Guinness Six Nations campaign in a positive manner.

The Scots travel to London, where they haven’t won in 36 years and were humbled 61-21 in 2017, trying to add to a solitary win over Italy in week one.

Townsend said: “That [record Calcutta Cup defeat] is something I know they have discussed as a playing group.”

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“Those that were there two years ago certainly don’t want that to happen again,” added Townsend, who replaced Vern Cotter as national coach a couple of months later.

Scotland's players are dejected after suffering a heavy defeat in the 2017 Calcutta Cup at Twickenham. Picture: Getty Images

That rout scuppered hopes of a first Scottish Triple Crown in 27 years and Townsend went on: “That was a tough day for everyone who is a Scotland rugby supporter and for the players who had to go through it.”

The coach did lead his side to a 25-13 victory over England at BT Murrayfield last February to reclaim the world’s oldest international trophy. Ahead of tomorrow’s rematch, he said: “First of all we have to be much tougher to beat but we also have to take our game to the opposition as well.”

Townsend has made six changes from the side that lost 18-11 to Wales for the tournament finale, which could see England gunning for the title if Grand Slam contenders Wales slip up in Cardiff earlier.

Saracens’ Sean Maitland takes over at full-back in the absence of Stuart Hogg and Blair Kinghorn through injury, while Sale wing Byron McGuigan replaces Tommy Seymour, who damaged ribs against the Welsh.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

Glasgow centre Sam Johnson earns a recall at No 12 in place of clubmate Pete Horne, who drops out of the squad.

The starting back row features two of the three pack changes and Edinburgh openside Hamish Watson, who made a stunning comeback from a broken hand off the bench against Wales, will earn his 25th cap in place of Jamie Ritchie, who has not recovered from a head and neck injury.

Versatile Exeter Chiefs forward Sam Skinner – who suffered a concussion in the opening round win over Italy – returns to blindside in place of Sale’s Josh Strauss – who drops to the bench. Edinburgh’s Magnus Bradbury will wear the No 8 jersey for the first time in what will be his seventh cap.

Edinburgh lock Ben Toolis starts in place of Jonny Gray, who is on the bench, alongside his clubmate Grant Gilchrist to form an all-capital pro team tight five.

Townsend, who made his own Scotland debut at Twickenham 26 years ago, is unfazed by the fact that his team’s chances of recording a first away win over the Auld Enemy since 1983 have been widely written off.

“I think two years ago a lot of people were tipping Scotland to win the game,” said the Scotland coach. “A lot of people thought we were favourites.

“We tend to rise to the occasion of playing teams that are better than us in the rankings and that’s been shown over the last few seasons and, obviously with history and the way England are playing, we’re going to have to rise to the occasion this week.

“We have tended to rise to the occasion when we’ve been underdogs in the past. We’ve not handled being favourites as well as being underdogs, that’s for sure.”