Gregor Townsend says Scotland players can show Warren Gatland they are tough enough

Gregor Townsend has backed his Scotland players to show they have the resolve to win in Wales after Warren Gatland questioned their mental toughness.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has challenged his players to prove they are worthy of Lions selection.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has challenged his players to prove they are worthy of Lions selection.

It has been 18 years since the Scots tasted victory on Welsh soil and Townsend will attempt to remedy that on Saturday when the sides meet in a rearranged Six Nations match in Llanelli.

The Scotland coach has restored big guns Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray to his starting XV for the match at Parc y Scarlets as he seeks to build on a run which has seen victories over Italy, France and Georgia.

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But Italy apart, Scotland have struggled historically to win away in the Six Nations. Gatland, the British & Irish Lions head coach, has warned that that needs to change if he is going to pick more Scots for next year’s tour of South Africa.

British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland says Scotland must win more away games to prove their 'mental toughness'.

“We know how hard Scotland are to beat at Murrayfield but it is important as a group that they play well on the road as we are playing South Africa on the road,” said Gatland. “We are playing the world champions away and we want players that are mentally tough to handle the pressure. That is the important thing.”

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It’s a well-aired grievance that Scotland have been under-represented in Gatland’s Lions teams and Townsend has urged his players to use the autumn Tests to prove to the former Wales coach that they are good enough for selection.

“There are more games than just Wales away,” said Townsend. “We have the Autumn Nations Cup and the games in [next year’s] Six Nations. But this is the first one about getting on the Lions tour and I’m sure our players will be hugely motivated.

“What better way to start and get in Warren’s thoughts than go out and have a very good performance.”

The Scotland coach demurred when questioned about his players’ mental toughness. He pointed to the recent wins - and also the narrows defeats in the Six Nations earlier this year against Ireland in Dublin and England in horrendous weather conditions at Murrayfield.

“All I know is our team and what I see of them,” said Townsend. “They go through experiences and get stronger from them.

“I saw the performance out in Ireland, which I thought was close to our potential. Half-time against England, I saw a real test of character having played with the wind behind us and been 3-0 down to then have to go into extreme conditions, get it to three-all and have a chance to go to 6-3.

“That showed the character of our team this season and we haven’t talked about the win in Italy or the win against France. We’ve got to make sure we do that more often.

“We talked a lot today about our experiences against England because we didn’t win that game, and the conditions could be similar this weekend. What did we learn that day to make us ready to win this weekend?

“We’ll have those tests in the future, I’m sure Gats will be looking at that this season. It’ll be this season’s team he’ll be picking from, not past years.”

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