‘No reason we can’t play our best game at Twickenham’ - Grant Gilchrist urges team-mates to focus on Scotland

Scotland lock Grant Gilchrist concedes that ugly points may be what are needed to break the national team out of their three-game Guinness Six Nations losing streak.

Scotland lock Grant Gilchrist shows his frustration after the 18-11 defeat by Wales at BT Murrayfield. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS
Scotland lock Grant Gilchrist shows his frustration after the 18-11 defeat by Wales at BT Murrayfield. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

Under head coach Gregor Townsend, the Scots have played sparkling rugby in flashes but have often come unstuck when things come down to an old-
fashioned grind.

That was in evidence again at the weekend when Scotland scored a scintillating second-half try but also spent long periods banging their heads against the brick wall of an admittedly excellent Welsh defence as they slipped to a 18-11 defeat.

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Edinburgh second-row Gilchrist was honest enough to admit that focusing on ticking the scoreboard over regardless of aesthetics was something that was in the players’ minds heading into this Saturday’s tournament finale against England at Twickenham.

“I think the best teams when they’re down there [in the opposition 22] score the points through their maul or through pick and go or through a different form of scoring,” said the 28-year-old.

“It doesn’t always have to be from 30 metres out, 60-metre tries. Yeah, that’s brilliant, but what we’re working on this week is how we can finish when we’re in the opposition zone.”

It was something that was lacking last Saturday as Wales were put on the ropes but no knockout punch was forthcoming.

“Yes that hits the nail on the head,” said Gilchrist.

“Turn that possession into more points. Our work when we got into the 22 of Wales wasn’t quite good enough. We put them under pressure and got some penalties but we didn’t get the points we needed and the scores we needed.

“Getting down there as many times as we did was a positive, because you have to work hard to get in there, so we did pretty well, but we didn’t turn that pressure into points as well as we could have, so that’s a big work-on this week.”

Remarkably, for a Test career which started in 2013, Gilchrist has not experienced playing a Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham before. England coach Eddie Jones has been firing the opening shots in the mind games, promising the Scots a fiery response to their loss in Edinburgh just over a year ago.

“We don’t get involved in anything like that, we’ve enough to be worried about with our own game and going down there getting prepared to play a game of rugby,” said Gilchrist, who started in that famous 25-13 win over the Auld Enemy on home soil last year,

“That’s it at the end of the day. We need to address some areas of our game we need to work on and we’re aware that we’re playing one of the best sides in the world at their home. It’s a huge challenge.

“I don’t think you need any more motivation. It’s a huge game, playing any of these games, England, Wales, Ireland, they’re massive games and representing Scotland you feel the responsibility.

“If you’re not motivated to play for Scotland regardless of the opposition there’s something seriously wrong. I don’t think it makes any difference.”

Gilchrist didn’t play in the 61-21 humiliation two years ago but knows enough about Twickenham’s foreboding reputation.

“I didn’t play that day [ in 2017] . You know the size of the task anyway. It’s a reminder if you get it wrong that you’re going to lose the game, but we know that anyway,” said the lock.

“The standard of the Six Nations says that if you’re away from home and you get it wrong you can look pretty silly.

“So we understand the pressure on us to perform; if we don’t get it right we won’t compete and we won’t get the win we are desperately looking for.

“We believe we can do, we know the size of the challenge but we believe throughout the tournament if we put together the bits we have got right into one performance we can beat any team.”

It may be 36 years since Scotland won at Twickenham but Gilchrist believes putting too much focus on the venue is counter-productive, while acknowledging that it can’t be avoided.

“We love playing at Murrayfield. That’s a given,” he said.

“There’s no better place to play as a Scotland player with the crowd behind you but it is a grass pitch with posts and that should not change the way we play the game.

“The reality is certain things will. For example the crowd will influence certainly parts but if we get our rugby right there is no reason why we can’t put our best game out there.”

Edinburgh players have dominated the Scotland pack this season that is set to continue on Saturday, with Gilchrist delighted to see clubmate Hamish Watson make such an impactful return from injury against Wales as the openside lifted the stadium with some fine carries.

“I watch Hamish week in and week out and that is what he does,” said Gilchrist. “It’s great to have him back. We saw in that 20 minutes his hunger for it and he can add to the team and we was outstanding off the bench.

“It’s great to see him come back pretty quickly from a nightmare injury just before the Six Nations which was gutting for him. I am really chuffed he managed to get back in quick time and he can have some impact on the tournament.”