● En­tire War­riors back­line to play against Samoa as new coach seeks co­he­sion for his first match in charge at Mur­ray­field

The Scotsman - - Sport - Dun­can Smith

and the mighty New Zealand All Blacks ar­rive at Mur­ray­field a week to­mor­row to take on Gre­gor Townsend’s Scot­land in the sec­ond au­tumn Test and we’ve got tick­ets to give away.

A quest for in­stant unity lay be­hind the think­ing of Gre­gor Townsend nam­ing an all­glas­gow War­riors back­line for to­mor­row’s open­ing au­tumn Test against Samoa at BT Mur­ray­field.

Thought to be the first time, cer­tainly in the pro­fes­sional era, that ev­ery sin­gle po­si­tion be­hind the scrum has been filled by play­ers from the same club in a Scot­land start­ing XV, the coach had no hes­i­ta­tion in giv­ing the nod to play­ers he knows so well from his time at Scot­stoun.

A sim­i­lar phi­los­o­phy, to a slightly lesser ex­tent, sees five from eight in the pack com­ing from Ed­in­burgh.

One caveat to the Glaswe­gian back­line is that cen­tre Huw Jones is yet to play for the War­riors, hav­ing just ar­rived to be­gin his con­tract from Storm­ers and West­ern Province. Even there, how­ever, there is fa­mil­iar­ity as the 23-yearold teams up again with Alex Dun­bar, with whom he has played the bulk of his in­ter­na­tional rugby.

Dun­bar has only played ten min­utes in the past month and a half due to a knee in­jury but Townsend is clearly keen to field what is now clearly the No 1 cen­tre pair­ing.

“The good thing about in­ter­na­tional coach­ing is you get to study in­ter­na­tional teams and it was one we kept com­ing back to as a coach­ing group, keep­ing club play­ers to­gether,” said Townsend.

“Co­he­sion was the word that kept com­ing back to us as a coach­ing staff. I re­mem­ber times when I was still play­ing. I think it was War­ren Gat­land’s first se­lec­tion when he was Ire­land coach he picked 13 Mun­ster play­ers.

“War­ren Gat­land again with Wales had 14 Ospreys out of the XV who took on Eng­land a cou­ple of years ago. Joe Sch­midt’s first Ire­land team had 11 or 12 Le­in­ster play­ers.

“So there are ad­van­tages, es­pe­cially if it’s your first game, be­cause th­ese play­ers don’t need much coach­ing.

“Tommy Sey­mour, Lee Jones and Stu­art Hogg know what each other are go­ing to do on a counter-at­tack. You don’t have to spend too much time on telling them: ‘You go there, you go there, this is what we’re look­ing for.’

“Also they bring their own sys­tems. There are things they’ve brought to us. I’m try­ing not to give away all our se­crets but let’s say there’s a tap penalty move they’ve worked at Glas­gow.

“Great idea. You guys all know what you’re do­ing there. Let’s do that. It’s bet­ter than us bring­ing a move that is brand new to 15 play­ers.”

That think­ing ex­tends to bench op­tions too and Townsend added: “It is good to have the Ed­in­burgh fron­trow start­ing and the Glas­gow one on the bench.

“In most cases now the front row doesn’t play 80 min­utes be­cause of the ef­fort they have to put in and the op­po­si­tion bring on a fresh front row so we can pre­dict at some point the bench will get a run out, hope­fully the front row to­gether as they have played a lot and trained a lot to­gether this sea­son.

“We found it ben­e­fi­cial on [the sum­mer] tour. The Ed­in­burgh front row started ver­sus Italy then the Glas­gow one ver­sus Aus­tralia and it just al­lows you to do more things than fo­cus on brand new things. Co­he­sion, we be­lieve, is very im­por­tant.”

Townsend ad­mit­ted that it was a thrilling prospect to be head coach of the coun­try he played for 82 times in an il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer at Mur­ray­field for the first time, although stressed he won’t be think­ing much about him­self come to­mor­row.

“I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to it. As a head coach it is all about the play­ers and help­ing them per­form and be con­fi­dent in what they are go­ing to do,” he said.

“To help them in a sta­dium that is 65,000-plus is even bet­ter, for the play­ers and for us to en­joy the at­mos­phere.”

Townsend faced Samoa three times in his Test ca­reer

and knows from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence that his play­ers will know they have been in a con­test come to­mor­row evening.

“I do re­mem­ber one. [Cen­tre] Brian Lima, whose nick­name was The Chi­ro­prac­tor, got me – and I did get my back aligned that day.

“We had a three-on-one, it was the 1999 World Cup play­off game, and nor­mally with a three-on-one the de­fender is just go­ing to sit off and you can pick him off, be­cause he’s got de­ci­sions to make. He didn’t do that. He came in and, well, it meant I had to pass the ball – I cer­tainly got hit hard.

“That is some­thing the samoans do re­ally well. They tackle very hard, they run very hard. They’ve got a power and speed about their game. If you give them quick ball, if you aren’t ac­cu­rate, they will cause you dam­age.”

The last time Scot­land faced the is­lan­ders was in the World Cup pool stage two years ago and they edged a tense 36-33 win to book a place in the quar­ter-fi­nals. Skip­per Greig Laid­law dragged his side over the line on that af­ter­noon in New­cas­tle and the Cler­mont scrum-half, who is out of the se­ries with a bro­ken an­kle, has been in and around the Scot­land camp this week.

“He’s been re­ally good out speak­ing to in­di­vid­u­als, just be­ing there,” said Townsend of Laid­law’s in­flu­ence. “Play­ers have had a lot of meet­ings them­selves as well as us hav­ing coach-led meet­ings and to have some­one who’s ob­vi­ously a key leader for this team, for this squad and has been their cap­tain for the last cou­ple of sea­sons is great.

“The play­ers have re­ferred to that [World Cup game] and ob­vi­ously Greig was there and that’s where we’ve cer­tainly been aware that at things like re-starts, which they were ex­cel­lent at that day, and run­ning from their own 22, which took the team by sur­prise, we’ve got to be alert for any­thing.”

2 Tommy Sey­mour in­train­ing atthe Oriam in Ed­in­burgh yes­ter­day. The winger is one of seven Glas­gow play­ers who will make up the en­tire back­line against Samoa at Mur­ray­field to­mor­row.

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