Gregor Townsend issues France warning and reflects on breakdown issues as he sifts through Wales defeat

Gregor Townsend has warned that Scotland will be up against a far tougher France team than the one they defeated in Paris last year as the head coach looks to bounce back from Saturday’s loss to Wales.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend will look for his side to bounce back against France. (Photo by Geoff Caddick/AFP via Getty Images)
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend will look for his side to bounce back against France. (Photo by Geoff Caddick/AFP via Getty Images)

Fabien Galthie’s side sit top of the Guinness Six Nations table after two rounds of fixtures and were particularly impressive in their 30-24 victory over Ireland at the weekend. They will travel to Edinburgh for the game on February 26 in buoyant mood.

Scotland, by contrast, were second best in Cardiff where their miserable run continued with a 20-17 defeat at the Principality Stadium.

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The Scots have not won in the Welsh capital since 2002 and it was the hosts who got their hands on the Doddie Weir Cup and reignited their own Six Nations hopes after a tense encounter.

Townsend, whose side defeated England in round one, has backed Scotland to recover quickly.

“We’ve done it in the past,” said the head coach. “We’ve lost opening games or games in the middle of the Six Nations.

“We know the challenge. We’ll be playing against a team that has improved a lot since the last time we played them so we’ll have to be much better. We have two weeks to improve, although for one week we won’t have everyone in camp like the other nations.

“I’m sure the determination will be there for everyone to improve.”

Wales' fly-half Dan Biggar kicked four penalties and the winning drop goal in the 20-17 win over Scotlabd. (Photo by Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

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Townsend’s side were hugely impressive in defeating France 27-23 in Paris in the final game of last year’s Six Nations and enjoy a good home record against Les Bleus in the championship, winning the last three encounters at Murrayfield.

But the coach will be concerned about how Scotland let a winning position slip in Cardiff. Townsend was particularly perturbed by the way his side fell away in the final 20 minutes but refused to blame the absence of the injured Jamie Ritchie, their chief ball winner at the breakdown.

“Jamie is a very good player and he has been outstanding for us, but Magnus [Bradbury] and Sam Skinner had a huge influence in the game,” said Townsend of Ritchie’s replacements.

“We’ll have a good look at the interpretation of the breakdown. At times teams were being awarded jackals and at other times the ball was getting slowed down and teams were getting penalised. We’ll look at the last 20 minutes to see if there should have been more penalties there.

“I feel it was more about ball control than actual breakdown issues. A couple of props lost the ball in collisions, which stopped the flow of our attack.”

Captain Stuart Hogg talked about Scotland giving away “cheap field position, cheap penalties [and] cheap knock-ons” and they conceded 13 penalties to Wales’ eight over the course of the game.

They also lost Finn Russell to the sin-bin during the latter stages, with Dan Biggar dropping the winning goal while the Scotland stand-off was off the pitch.

Russell has now picked up two yellows and one red card in his last seven Six Nations matches.

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