Rugby

Gregor Townsend eyes consistency to make Scotland genuine Six Nations contenders

The Scots showed plenty of promise during an inconsistent campaign.

Gregor Townsend’s Scotland finished fourth in the Guinness Six Nations
Gregor Townsend's Scotland finished fourth in the Guinness Six Nations Gregor Townsend’s Scotland finished fourth in the Guinness Six Nations (Brian Lawless/PA)

Gregor Townsend insisted Scotland have proved they are capable of being genuine Guinness Six Nations title contenders as he reflected on what might have been following a frustrating bottom half finish.

The Scots showed plenty of promise during an inconsistent campaign but slipped to fourth place in the final standings after being denied a first Triple Crown in 34 years by Saturday’s 17-13 loss to champions Ireland.

Defeat in Dublin was a third from five championship fixtures following a controversial round-two reverse to France and last weekend’s shock loss away to Italy.

Head coach Townsend, who faced questions about his future after a chastening experience in Rome, is adamant his side are making progress.

“We were in contention over the last couple of weeks, which hasn’t been the case before in championships,” said the 50-year-old, who masterminded wins over Wales and England.

“We would have been more in contention if we’d been awarded that try against France, so I think the evidence is there.

“We’re still searching, like any team, to back up performances.

Scotland suffered a 10th successive defeat against Ireland
Scotland suffered a 10th successive defeat against Ireland Scotland suffered a 10th successive defeat against Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It is difficult during the Six Nations, every team has found that. And in particular this Six Nations with the competition and the quality of the teams we were up against, if you don’t get your performance spot on then you’re going to be really challenged to win that game.

“We have to be at our very best every time we play.”

Scotland have not won the championship since winning the final Five Nations in 1999.

Huw Jones’ late try offered hope of ending on a high but it proved to be a consolation as Ireland held on to retain their crown.

Co-captain Finn Russell, who kicked eight points at the Aviva Stadium, spoke of mental frailties undermining his country’s development following the largely positive performance.

While head coach Townsend hailed Scotland’s tenacious defensive display as their best in years, he concurred with the assessment of his influential fly-half.

“Yeah, I agree with him, it happens in every sport,” he said.

“The mental side is the same as the strategy, the same as the skill side, the physical side.

Scotland boss Gregor Townsend, right, agreed with comments made by fly-half Finn Russell
Scotland boss Gregor Townsend, right, agreed with comments made by fly-half Finn Russell Scotland boss Gregor Townsend, right, agreed with comments made by fly-half Finn Russell (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Teams will have moments that go against them – every team in this championship will have had it – and it could be focus, it could be how quickly you reset.

“We’ve had chances to win all our games. The three games we lost were all within a score – that’s even more disappointing for us.

“We felt we should have won against France. We underperformed against Italy but we performed well (against Ireland) and we performed well in the two victories.

“Two wins is not what we set out to do or what we believe this team are capable of achieving.”