Townsend hails Seymour hat-trick
excellently. We are developing a brand of rugby where all the forwards can play and that showed as well at the end of the game, in terms of shifting the ball.
“But holding the ball was certainly one of the deciding factors in the end and our forwards did a tremendous job in tiring them out and holding on to the ball. We talked about that, and going to a driving game when it was needed. So that was really pleasing.
“There are no easy games and the way we analysed Fiji ... they are tremendous at offloading and their ability to play the game of rugby. But our defence really fired today and, because of the way we played, it gave us the chance to turn over ball and we took a few opportunities.”
The re-forming of his partnership at half-back with Finn Russell was something Laidlaw was keen to highlight, particularly the contribution that came from the Racing 92 stand-off.
“Finn is easy to play with now,” said Laidlaw after winning his 63rd cap. “He understands what rugby’s about at this level. He knows when to flatten up, and when to push the boundaries.”
Laidlaw, however, knows he and his team face an even bigger test next weekend when South Africa visit Murrayfield.
“We’ll need to defend very well against the Springboks, against one of the best teams in the world.
“We won’t want to give South Africa 17 points if we can help it. It will all start with our defence and they are a very big team, with their physicality, and they always pride themselves on that.
“Maybe games I’ve been involved with in the past we’ve lost that.” HAT-TRICKS at Murrayfield don’t come around too often. The one Tommy Seymour racked up here yesterday was a long time coming. The first trio of tries scored by Scotland at this venue since Ally Hogg in a Rugby World Cup match against Romania in 2007, it was little wonder Gregor Townsend reserved words of praise for his hat-trick hero yesterday.
While George Turner had actually completed a hat-trick in the summer tour to Canada, Seymour’s big moment was all the sweeter considering the on and off-field problems that afflicted the quicksilver wing at times last season. While he hadn’t scored a try for his nation since a match against Italy in last year’s Six Nations, his hat-trick yesterday nudged him to fourth on Scotland’s all-time list behind Ian Smith, Tony Stanger and Chris Paterson with 19.
Not only does it seem a pretty fair bet that he will surpass all three of them sooner or later, he should really have had four on the day were it not for a brain-freeze from Peter Horne when he had a simple two-on-one in the corner during the first half.
“It’s brilliant to see,” said Townsend. “Tommy had a really tough year last year and to see him back in full form, full confidence and enjoying his rugby again at Glasgow and getting that transferring to Scotland was great.
“He’s a really important player for us. He was vice-captain last week, he’s someone who talks a lot during games. We’ve been really pleased with his form for Glasgow. He probably didn’t get the ball that much last week but when he got it today he looked dangerous.”
Townsend’s Scotland are occasionally criticised for only being able to play one way – a high tempo, free-glowing style of game – but this match defied that notion. Three of the tries came from the forwards via line-out drives, while the backs ran in eight.
“I don’t think any team can play just one way,” he said. “When we lost in Fiji we scored two tries off our maul. When we beat Italy in the Six Nations we got two tries in the maul. The forwards have a big role in what we do, whether through our set-piece work or their handling. If there is one way it is the way to find how to find out where the defence is weakest.”
Townsend said the quality of the performance had caused him an additional selection headache ahead of Saturday’s meeting with the Springboks. Fringe men putting their hand up most vociferously included debutant second row Sam Skinner and back rows Jamie Ritchie and Josh Strauss.“This will make it harder for us to put a team together for next week,” he said. “Josh, Sam and Jamie haven’t played much for us, but they were all outstanding.”
Exeter Chiefs second row Skinner, who represented England Under-20s, ended up with the manof-the-match champagne, having pleased his Ayrshire-born father Peter by confirming his chance of allegiance to Scotland, regardless of a potential knock-on to his club chances.
“This has probably been the best day of my life,” said Skinner. “And my family’s life, to be honest with you. But my dad is probably going to have an early night. The anxiety probably crippled him. He is worse than me when it comes to nerves. He doesn’t say a word to people be-
This has probably been the best day of my life
fore games but he can relax now.” “My Dad is just a classic Scot,” he added. “I remember being in the living room watching him watch Scotland matches in the Six Nations and Autumn internationals, walking in and out, stressing about the game. So I’ve grown up supporting Scotland… and England, which is very rare I suppose! But that’s the modern world, isn’t it?”
Skinner was enjoying himself so much he even surprised his coaches by putting in a tactical kick in behind the Fiji defence at one point. “I don’t know if it was the right choice. Let’s be brutally honest here. It was an average kick and it turned out okay. I don’t I know what I was thinking. If you had said I was going to kick at international level, I would be like ‘are you joking’. But once you are in the game it is just like any other game of rugby. “It probably looked awful.”