Gregor Townsend has called on Scotland to channel the spirit of Paris as they prepare to host Australia in shape in Sunday’s Fall Nations Series clash.
The head coach is delighted to have been able to name a team with 14 of the 15 players who started the Six Nations victory in France in March, with the injured Rory Sutherland the only absent from that team.
That was the first time the Scots had won in Paris in 22 years and, despite the fact that it has been almost eight months since then, Townsend hopes that the welfare factor of that match can be harnessed.
Gregor Townsend fears his side is undercooked compared to Australia
He said: ‘I couldn’t believe that 10 days ago we had all 15 players available who started that game, but as I mentioned to a coach, Rory Sutherland got injured in training.
“It is a unique situation in rugby that we can select from such a similar group. Those players showed their unity and resistance in Paris.
“ That was one of the best performances I’ve ever been involved with with this group in terms of the way we started it, the way we handled it, the way we had to defend when we were one man less twice. , and then we won again.
Scotland won in Paris for the first time in 22 years in March by beating France 27-23
Despite playing with 14 men, Scotland came back to claim a famous victory in France.
Duhan van der Merwe scored a crucial try late in the game as Scotland won in Paris
“Even though almost eight months have passed, this group knows that it has been a team before, a winning team.
“We will need the same determination, the same togetherness and the same quality of rugby on Sunday to beat Australia.”
Scotland have played only one game since then: last weekend’s routine 60-14 win over Tonga.
Australia, by contrast, has managed to squeeze in 11 games since July and have won each of its last five. Townsend admits that Australia could have an advantage in that regard.
Australia have played 11 times since July, while Scotland have played only one event
He said: ‘It could be a concern. This is our first game with this team in over seven months.
“We have been playing games at the club level, so the players have been toughened in battle, some more than others.
“The learning that Australians have been exposed to has been fantastic.
They’ve played the All Blacks seven times in the last two years, they’ve played the world champions twice, they’ve played Japan and Argentina, teams with different styles, so you’re going to get better with these exposures.
The Wallabies beat South Africa and Argentina twice in the Rugby Championship this summer
“We just have to look to build that cohesion right away. We have had two weeks of training and only one game with this group of players, but they seem to have bonded well.
“They have trained with energy and communication has been high, so these are usually positive signs that we will have a positive start on Sunday.”
Townsend has made six changes to the side that started the 10-shot victory over Tonga, with Stuart Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe, Chris Harris, Finn Russell, Sam Skinner and Grant Gilchrist all added to the team.
Townsend admitted that Scotland’s lack of matches could be a concern before Sunday.
The head coach explained that he had to make several tough decisions, including Kyle Steyn falling to the substitute bench after his record four attempts last weekend.
He said: ‘Kyle was certainly in the mix for the national team, but I think being on the bench ahead of other players like Huw Jones, who was on the bench during the Six Nations, shows that what he did last week has brought some rewards.
‘That was a difficult conversation because we had some people in the mix for that position at the bench, just like we had some people in the mix for the starting positions.
Kyle Steyn scored a record four attempts in Scotland’s 60-14 loss to Tonga last weekend.
Steyn, however, will find himself on the substitute bench when Scotland host Australia.
‘All the selections are difficult. He gives each selection due time to make sure to look at each individual and discuss each position.
‘On this side, we picked 14 of the 15 players who started against France and it would likely have been 15 of 15 if Rory had been fit and available.
“You could look at it and say there wasn’t much debate because the team hasn’t changed much, but we know that’s not the case. Since that game in Paris, the players have had different experiences.
“Last weekend, the players played very well, but we are supporting this group of players. They did a lot of good things in the Six Nations and since then some of them have had more experiences that should make them even more well-rounded players and more confident test players. ”