Gre­gor rel­ish­ing task of tak­ing on the world’s best

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - Sport - By Alan Shaw SPORT@SUNDAYPOST.COM

Gre­gor

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

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