Gregor Townsend vows Scotland will be pumped up for Chile showdown in Santiago

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Gregor Townsend vows Scotland will be pumped up for Chile showdown in Santiago
Gregor Townsend vows Scotland will be pumped up for Chile showdown in Santiago

Gregor Townsend has promised that no quarter will be asked or given in tomorrow evening’s non-cap international match against Chile in Santiago.

This is officially a Scotland A match – the first since a 14-14 draw against England Saxons at Scotstoun in February 2014 – but the national team head coach has named a strong side containing just three uncapped players in full-back Ollie Smith, outside-centre Matt Currie and flanker Ben Muncaster.

With none of the English-based players in the set-up available to play because this game has been scheduled outside World Rugby’s international window, the match-day squad is made up of 11 players each from Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, plus tight-head prop Javan Sebastian of the Scarlets.

This will be the first time Chile have faced Six Nations opposition since hosting France in 1958, but there is a sense of momentum with rugby in the South American country at the moment after victory over Canada in last year’s ‘Americas’ World Cup qualifying match set-up a play-off against the USA on 9th July, when they will have a chance to book their place in  the main event for the first time ever.

“We know we are representing Scotland,” said Townend. “For a number of players it has been a while since they either played for Scotland, with guys like Scott Cummings and Matt Fagerson coming back from injuries, or it is the first opportunity for some to be involved outside of age-grade rugby – so we will be pumped up.

“The players are aware that Chile are a confident team and they are very cohesive. While many people won't recognise the players’ names, they have been in camp for weeks. A lot of the players play together in the South American championship. and they have four players coming from France and Spain.

“Cohesion can be a huge weapon at international level. We've got to find our game quickly and adapt to what they are doing but also impose the way we have been training.”

The Scots will be captained by Edinburgh flanker Luke Crosbie, who has been capped only once, against Tonga last October, but has been arpund the national set-up since being called into the training squad for the 2019 Six Nations, with his appearances having been limited by a combination of injuries and inopportune times and the stiff competition he faces in the back-row.

“He’s a leader by example, the way he plays, the way he trains,” stated Townsend. “He’s very proud to represent Scotland, and he’s had captaincy experience at Edinburgh this year.

“A year ago, he was due to be captain in our ‘A’ game against England which unfortunately got cancelled,” the coach added, “So we thought highly of him then and we think very highly of him now. He missed the Six Nations through injury, but he’s bounced back from that really well and I thought he was one of the form players at the end of the season.”

Meanwhile, Australian-born centre Sione Tuipulotu will be vice-captain, which highlights the impact he has made since his arrival in Scotland from Japan last summer.

“Sione has impressed all of us since he got to Glasgow, since he was involved with us in November, and in the Six Nations,” said Townsend. “He’s such a positive influence on and off the field. Every training session, he’s got real intent and attacks it with pace. He communicates really loudly, and off the field he is a connector – a humble, hard-working player who is friends with everyone.

“So, that describes leadership – someone who is consistent, someone who is a leader on the field but also a connector off the field.

“And we feel that with the way he is growing his game, he is obviously a Test player and this gives him a chance to put pressure on the other centres we’ve got on tour and say: ‘I am going to be playing in the Test series as well’.”

The English-based players will be at the game as spectators tomorrow night and free to train with the squad as of Sunday, however travel plans mean that their first session won’t be until Monday, when the build-up to the first of Scotland’s three Test series against Argentina will begin in earnest.

“The [player release] agreement is with PRL [the umbrella group which represents England’s top-flight clubs] rather than individual clubs,” explained Townsend. “Scarlets have been very supportive of Javan playing for Scotland, and they’ve had an extra two weeks to their season when they focussed purely on fitness, which he has come through in really good shape.

“He got time off the bench for us against Japan last November, but this will be his first opportunity to start, and he’s someone we have high hopes for in terms of what he can do in the set-piece, but he’s also a very good rugby player which fits well with what we are looking for from our front five.”

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