Gregor relishing task of taking on the world’s best
Townsend knows the size of the task facing Scotland next month.
The November Test series sees his squad take on Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.
And the scope of the challenge was emphasised when Townsend watched the latter hand the reigning world champions a rare defeat recently.
“Australia were very good and New Zealand were very good, too. They almost won the game,” nods the coach, in charge at home for the first time after the summer tour.
“We had been at the game two weeks previously, when Australia beat South Africa, and teams have been really taking the game to New Zealand in defence and carrying the ball, and they’ve been cracking Test matches.
“We’ve seen an Australian team that has a consistency in selection – really cohesive – and they’ve got better and better.
“To me, they have always been the best or the second-best attacking team in the world, and the other team is the one that wears black jerseys.
“So I believe we are playing the best two attacking teams in the world, and it will be two huge challenges for our defence.”
Scotland’s cause hasn’t been helped by injury, with the loosehead prop position a particular concern.
Ali Dickinson, Rory Sutherland, Alan Dell and Gordon Reid have all been ruled out, meaning uncapped props Jamie Bhatti and Daryl Marfo will have to be pitched in.
But Townsend insists: “It’s an opportunity for them.
“There are three looseheads, who have been regulars for Scotland over the last few years, that are unavailable. But that has opened up the opportunity for Jamie and Daryl at their clubs and they have been doing very well.
Glasgow’s Bhatti is the most likely to start, and he has enjoyed a fairly meteoric rise as he was playing club rugby just 12 months ago.
He’s played just 14 games for Glasgow, six of them off the bench, but he’s impressed after making himself first choice at the coalface for new coach Dave Rennie this season.
“He has worked really hard. Jamie is a good model of someone who has had to fight for everything,” says his national coach.
“He didn’t get the contract after the Under20s, you probably know what his job (slaughterman) was during that period. He spent some time in South Africa off his own bat to improve and then got an academy contract a year of two after that.
“Jamie trained really well with the academy and played regularly for Melrose and showed real consistency. He played for Glasgow during the Six Nations last year and, again, played really well.
“He earned his pro contract and has been a regular for Glasgow.
“It shows that if you put that effort in and make the most of the opportunities, you get the rewards.”
Jamie Bhatti has impressed at Glasgow this season