Six Nations: Gregor Townsend shrugs off Scotland v England ‘trash talk’

Gregor Townsend has described the increasingly intemperate language being used on both sides in the lead up to Saturday’s Calcutta Cup showdown with England as “part of the fun and spice” of rugby’s oldest rivalry.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend jokes with the media during a press conference. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend jokes with the media during a press conference. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

A couple of days after Scotland centre Sam Johnson
said “no-one likes England…almost to the point of hate”, England flanker Lewis Ludlam returned fire.

The Northampton flanker is one of five changes to Eddie Jones’ side for the game at BT Murrayfield, while Townsend has made only one, bringing Magnus Bradbury back at No 8 with last week’s debutant Nick Haining on the bench.

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Ludlam questioned the notion that Celtic nations play with more passion than England. He said: “I disagree actually. We are emotionally there. They hate us and we hate them. There is no difference.

“It’s just another place to go. It’s a battle. It’s going to be a war and it’s something we’re excited for and we’ll be ready for.”

In response, Townsend said: “They’re part of the fun and spice. Players are getting motivated to play a game but they’re really good friends nowadays in international rugby.

“They got on really well after the game, even though they wouldn’t want to admit that going into the game. It should be a great contest for the 
supporters.”

Scotland lost their Guinness Six Nations opener 19-12 in Dublin, while England were beaten 24-17 in Paris, heaping pressure on both teams to get their campaigns up and running tomorrow.

Earlier in the week, England coach Jones, who was harassed by three drunken Scots – later fined for public disorder – at a station in Manchester the day after losing in Edinburgh in 2018, described Scotland as a “niggly” side, but Townsend, who said “the media must love his comments, took that as a compliment.

“I’ve read Eddie’s comments and I thought they were excellent. He’s analysed our game pretty well,” said Townsend.

“He knows it is going to be 
a fight around the break-down, around the contact, and at times it will be hugely physical.”

With Storm Ciara set to blow in, conditions are sure to dictate how the game is played.

“They [England] have a quality squad,” said Townsend when analysing their selection, which sees Willi Heinz replace Ben Youngs at scrum-half and Ludlam in for Courtney Lawes. Prop Mako Vunipola and lock George Kruis are both back with Jonathan Joseph replacing injured 
centre Manu Tuilagi.

Townsend added: “The bench guys came on and did really well last week. Joseph has played very well against Scotland in the past, Willi Heinz came on and played well last week and so did Lewis Ludlam. I think they’re going to play around the forwards, with a six (forwards)-two (backs) split.

“They’ll be expecting to get the heavier forwards on in the second half with the two second rows they’ve got on the bench and three opensides, they think it’s going to be a tighter game and maybe it will be with the weather. But that suggests they’re going to play a tighter game.”

Returning to the theme of the pre-match “trash talk”, Townsend believes it is just part and parcel of the build-up to any Scotland-England encounter.

“I think both sets of players will be motivated, we always are because it’s our biggest rival,” he said.

“Whether it’s population numbers or more success historically, we know that it’s a rival we have to play our best against in order to have a chance, and it’s a game which means so much to our people.”