Scotland told to take it to next level after Wales win as Gregor Townsend rates Finn Russell display and imagines Doddie Weir with a Guinness
The 35-7 bonus-point victory at Murrayfield means they are level with Ireland at the top of the Guinness Six Nations standings after two rounds of fixtures. The Irish’s points difference is three better than the Scots who have now won their opening two games in the championship for the first time since 1996.
They scored five tries, four during a second half in which Finn Russell was at his creative best. The first half had been far closer, with the Scots leading 13-7 at the break but Wales squandered a good opportunity just before the interval.
Coming after the previous weekend’s 29-23 win over England at Twickenham, Townsend was asked if it felt like a statement victory. The coach said: “No. It feels like an improved performance. It did not feel like that at half-time. It felt more like Twickenham [England had led 13-12 at the break] but the second half was improved. If it was a seven out of ten last week it has moved up to an eight out of ten and we will have to improve again. The next two teams we play are ranked one and two in the world and we have to get up to nine out of ten to beat them.”
Russell was instrumental in all four of Scotland’s tries after the break, creating two for winger Kyle Steyn, one for Matt Fagerson and helping spark the move that led to Blair Kinghorn’s. “The threats that Finn has around him set up opportunities,” added the Scotand coach. “He made very good decisions on what opportunities to take. Our wingers held their width very well and Finn’s kicking to them was excellent. The midfielders offered a dual threat of passing and running. The ability to put passes in to get the wingers in and run hard yourself that forces the defence to mark people outside Finn. If they do that they take their eye off him and he will take those spaces and put people into holes.”
There is now a break in the championship before Scotland head to Paris to take on France on February 26. Their home-based players will be rested but those who play outside Scotland, like Russell, will be needed by their clubs next weekend. The stand-off is likely to line up for Racing 92 against Brive and Townsend will keep his fingers crossed that he comes through unscathed. “We will see where we are into the France week,” said Townsend. “He will be full of confidence going into the France game and we hope to have a full bill of health when we get that group together a week on Sunday.”
The win over Wales was freighted with extra significance for the Scotland camp because the Doddie Weir Cup is at stake when they play Wales and this was the first time it had been contested since the former lock forward died last November after a long battle with MND. His widow, Kathy, presented the trophy to Jamie Ritchie, the Scotland captain.“I’m sure he would have been proud," Townsend said of Weir, his former international team-mate. “He used to message me before and after games. He would always wish us all the best before the game and I’d picture him having a Guinness or a red wine sitting at home. If we won, he would say after the game that it was all down to the coaches, and if we lost he would say it was nothing to do with the coaches.
“It was always a nice text to receive from him and Kathy has continued that tradition. It was a big day for Kathy and the boys and for them to feel that love that everyone has for them, and for Doddie’s legacy to continue with the fundraising, today was a special day. It was brilliant that we were able to win for them.”