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Scotland's coach, Gregor Townsend, plans to focus on exploiting England's aggressive and high-risk defensive strategy.
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Scotland’s coach, Gregor Townsend, plans to focus on exploiting England’s aggressive and high-risk defensive strategy.

Gregor Townsend is certain that his Scottish team can come up with “answers” to face England’s latest aggressive defensive strategy, as they prepare to face off in the Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield on Saturday.

During the recent World Cup, South Africa effectively limited Finn Russell’s attacking choices with Pieter-Steph du Toit playing a significant role. As a result, Scotland only scored three points in their first pool match loss.

Felix Jones, the mastermind behind the impressive defense, previously aided the Springboks in achieving back-to-back World Cup victories. Now, he is striving to instill a similar level of discipline and development in England under the guidance of Steve Borthwick.

It appears that the new system may require some time to become established. During their match against Italy, Scotland’s defense, represented by the red rose, was broken three times. Additionally, Wales also revealed weaknesses at Twickenham. Despite this, Townsend believes that his team gained important insights from their previous game against South Africa. They are now aiming for their fourth consecutive win against England, a feat that has not been achieved in 52 years.

The coach of Scotland explained that their defensive strategy involves balancing risk and reward. When players fly up, there is a possibility of leaving gaps in the defense due to the more narrow formation. However, the potential payoff is that their quick decision-making and attacking skills could catch the opposing team off guard. The team is aware of this and knows what they need to do in order to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the opposing team’s defense.

Townsend stated that there is a widespread belief that a blitz defense can intimidate an offensive team, even if it fails to make tackles. Both England and South Africa have had instances of missed tackles, but this is a deliberate aspect of their strategy to be assertive and forward-thinking, and they are content with that approach.

Steve likely chose Felix Jones as defence coach for a specific purpose. Jones’ defensive style complements their goal of being fiercely aggressive when not in possession.

“They displayed a higher level of ball movement in the specific game against Italy compared to their performance in the World Cup. However, their style of play remains consistent: focused on kicking, defensive strategies, and emphasizing contact and set pieces.”

Townsend was addressing the audience prior to the announcement of England’s unexpected choice of George Furbank as full-back. It is possible that he may need to reconsider his plans for Saturday, but it is unlikely.

His record as head coach against England – four wins and a draw from six meetings – is something his predecessors could only dream about, but he was dismissive of any notion that Scotland’s unfamiliar status as favourites could be a hindrance.

“Irrespective of being the underdogs or favorites, it doesn’t matter,” stated Townsend. “Every time we face them, it’s a significant test. Although we have had the advantage in recent matches, they have all been close until the final 10 minutes.”

To come out victorious in this match, you will need to perform at your peak in rugby. This week’s game will require a similar level of performance. I anticipate that this will also be a highly competitive match.

There is no place where this is more evident than in the fierce competition at the breakdown, where Townsend has chosen to put former captain Jamie Ritchie back in his back row instead of Matt Fagerson in order to combat the danger presented by England’s Sam Underhill and No 8 Ben Earl.

“He mentioned that Jamie is among the top players in the world when it comes to jackals and we are fortunate to also have Rory Darge, another skilled jackler. Jamie takes great pride in being Scottish and we have confidence that this particular game will showcase his abilities.”

Although Townsend’s team has been boosted by the recovery of full-back Blair Kinghorn and wing Kyle Steyn, who are both fit to play in the back three, he anticipates that he will not have the energetic Darcy Graham available for the remaining games of the championship. Graham was already sidelined for the first two matches due to a quadriceps issue and has now sustained a groin injury. Townsend expressed his hope that Graham’s absence will not be lengthy, but acknowledged that it is a setback for the team.

Source: theguardian.com