Gregor Townsend admits two Scotland Six Nations wins falls short of target but says: 'I believe in this team'

Head coach laments loss in Italy but says performance in Ireland can be viewed positively

Gregor Townsend acknowledged that two wins from five games fell short of expectations for Scotland in this year’s Six Nations – but the coach still believes his team can be genuine title contenders in the future.

The Scots completed their campaign with a 17-13 loss to Ireland in Dublin, a result which gave the home side the title but left the visitors with a fourth-placed finish following France’s 33-31 win over England later on Saturday night. Townsend has now overseen seven Six Nations campaigns as head coach, finishing third, fifth, fourth, fourth, fourth and third in the previous six. This year’s tournament saw Scotland win one game fewer than last year but he was encouraged by the performance against Ireland, which was a marked improvement on the comprehensive defeat they suffered against the same opponents at last year’s World Cup.

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“We’ve had chances to win all games,” said Townsend, whose side recorded Six Nations wins over Wales and England but lost to France and Italy as well as the Irish. “In the three games we lost, they were all within a score. That’s disappointing for us. We felt we should have won against France. We never performed well enough against Italy, but we performed well today. Look, it is what it is. Two wins is not what we set out to do. But we believe in this team. Today was a good end to the championship in terms of performance but we’re still disappointed we didn’t pick up the win.”

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend looks on in Dublin.Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend looks on in Dublin.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend looks on in Dublin.

Scotland went into Saturday’s game at the Aviva knowing that a victory would give them the Triple Crown for the first time in 34 years. They even had a very outside chance of the title, but tries from Dan Sheehan and Andrew Porter put the Irish in the driving seat and although Huw Jones countered with a late score for the visitors, it wasn’t enough. Townsend feels the fact that his side were still in the running for the championship in rounds four and five proves they can be considered contenders.

“We were in contention over the last couple of weeks, which hasn’t been the case in previous championships,” he said. “I think the evidence is there. We’re still searching, like any team, to back up performances. It is difficult during the Six Nations, particularly in this Six Nations, with the competition and the quality of teams we’re up against. If you don’t get your performance spot-on, you’ll be really challenged to win a game. In Rome, that was on us. Against France, that was on us. That’s the reality.”

Scotland have now lost ten games in a row to Ireland but, in truth, it was the 31-29 defeat by Italy seven days previously which really sullied their campaign. “Rome was disappointing,” added Townsend. “But, as I said before, it’s difficult to match the performance week in, week out in the Six Nations. I don’t think any team has done that this year. I was encouraged by the performance here against Ireland at a venue that we knew would be a challenge.

”At times, the attack was good. We asked questions. We got penalties. We probably rushed the free-kick we won early in the game. We didn’t have enough possession in the second half, which was largely due to us making errors and giving away penalties. But also the way Ireland played. But the way we kept going was outstanding.”

The coach was reluctant to single out players but acknowledged that Andy Christie impressed in only his second Test start. “He was really good, but I don’t want to single out one individual,” said Townsend. “I thought the pack as a whole were outstanding. In the ten minutes we were a man down as well, their effort was outstanding. Andy’s had a really good Six Nations overall. He’s a player who’s really come through this year, like Kyle Rowe and Stafford McDowall. They have taken their chances.”