Gregor Townsend: Being Scotland coach still feels '˜unreal'

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend will select his first team to face Italy in Singapore. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS/SRUScotland head coach Gregor Townsend will select his first team to face Italy in Singapore. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS/SRU
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend will select his first team to face Italy in Singapore. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS/SRU
Gregor Townsend will name his first Scotland team tomorrow and the new head coach admits it still feels 'unreal' to be in charge of the national side.

The Scots will play Italy in Singapore on Saturday in the historic first-ever Tier One Test in Southeast Asia.

Townsend said: “It still feels a bit unreal arriving for my first Test match in Singapore

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“The last three weeks, from coaching perspective, have been real though – it is has started. You put a gameplan together, you are working with the players and getting to know some. You have the tracksuit on.

The former Glasgow Warriors head coach added that he was keen to build on the legacy of predecessor Vern Cotter after Scotland had their best Six Nations for more than a decade

Townsend added: “The players have that confidence. They have worked hard over a number of years and the success is starting to come, which is great. Now, we have to carry on that momentum.

“There are certain things that are technical and tactical, but I believe that a lot of way Scotland have played in recent times is something we want to build on

“We need to play with freedom; move the ball quickly with players making appropriate decisions. That is what want to build on first.

“There will be technical and tactical details, there will be changes but the general principles of how we want to play won’t be too dissimilar to what has gone on in the past. We want to see our strengths out there; players working hard, strong defence and playing at pace.”

The occasion itself promises to be different from anything either side has experienced before. The state-of-the art National Stadium in Kallang, Singapore has staged a World Series sevens tournament and three Super Rugby matches but never a full Test.

Singapore Rugby Union chairman Low Teo Ping said: “I hope there will be more to come

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“The match is the first between two Tier One teams to be played in Southeast Asia and we are looking he forward to it in the crowded, iconic national stadium.

“The other thing is the conditions. In Japan when they play the 2019 Rugby World Cup, it will be just as warm, or even warmer. This will be a great place to acclimatise, break the journey, get over the jet lag and then go on and win.”

For Townsend, the important thing is to get his reign off to a winning start.

He added: “We have had three weeks of camp, which was a bonus and have used that time productively.

“I have enjoyed it, as have the other new coaches. We are fortunate with the group of players we have who work hard, have got a lot of confidence from the last two seasons and are desperate to build on that.

“The aim is to build on the good work that has been done. You have your own philosophies and ultimately you want to see the players and the team improve – that is all we are here to do as coaches.”

Italy, however, are not expecting that much different from Scotland: “Gregor already has his hands all over Scottish rugby with the way they play,” pointed out Conor O’Shea, their head coach.

“It would be naive, when Scotland have two districts that play the way they do, and with the success Glasgow have had over the last number of years to say he has not been the catalyst. It is great for somebody as passionate as he is as a player and coach to be doing the job he is doing, I am sure he will be an amazing success.”