Six Nations: Scotland boss downplays expectations after France win
The Dark Blues responded in the best possible fashion to their painful opening-day defeat against Wales.
They edged out France 32-26 at Murrayfield to fire themselves back in the NatWest 6 Nations reckoning. But the Scots head coach knows that renewed sense of optimism could easy by wiped out again when England come calling in a fortnight’s time.
“It’s one game,” said Townsend. “Nobody was asking me if we could win the Championship last week.
“We are playing arguably the best team in the world over the last two years, given the number of games they’ve won.
“We will put them under pressure and see what happens.”
Having folded so meekly in the Principality Stadium the pressure was on Scotland to show they could stand up to the test against Les Bleus.
Their character was again put under pressure during the opening 40 minutes as Teddy Thomas twice danced his way to score.
But on both occasions the Scottish response was bold, with first Sean Maitland dotting down after Jonny Gray had heaved the hosts into scoring territory and then Huw Jones spotting a chink in the French armour to score a second try.
Townsend’s team trailed 20-14 at the break but with the French fading and their discipline slipping, former skipper Greig Laidlaw - back in a Dark Blues starting XV for the first time in a year - guided Scotland home as he nailed all eight of his attempts at the posts.
“We haven’t become a dreadful team just because of the Wales game,” said John Barclay, the man who has inherited the captaincy from Laidlaw. “That’s why we’re relieved.”
Townsend heaped praise on Laidlaw for the control he showed when Scotland needed it most.
“He played well,” he said of the scrum-half, who even switched to fly-half when Finn Russell was replaced with 15 minutes left. “Most people probably don’t pick up a lot of what Greig does outside of his passing and kicking.
“That’s managing the team. Coming in at points when we’ve conceded tries to help John.
“He’s a very good 10. He jogged through a few plays in the car park this morning as preparation. I’m sure that was enough prep for him.
“We needed to keep going at the French but wanted to keep Greig on the field so he could keep leading and kicking well.”