GREGOR TOWNSEND appeared to be slightly demob-happy during yesterday’s post-match press conference. Despite it being a disjointed performance by his side, the Scotland coach focussed on the positives of their home win over Japan.. 

“It was a real Test match,” he said. “Japan showed the level of play we had from them in 2019, the level we knew was coming. They are an ambitious and accurate team, and it is difficult when you are defending long phases to get yourself into the game. 

“Not many teams will keep ball in their own half and go through the phases like that. I think they are the only ones in world rugby. A lot of referees now are favouring the attacking team – that’s fine, he was consistent – but it makes it hard to find a way into the game.  

“You have to keep your control and discipline and patience in defence – and I felt we did that for large parts.  

“Japan had a lot of possession and they have scored a lot of tries in the past, whereas they got only one today and it was a bit of a freak with two guys ripping the ball at a line-out.  

“We always felt in control of the scoreboard even though, on the field, Japan were threatening us with the ambitious and accurate attack they brought. We need our team to go through these tests and find ways to win which we did today.

“I’ve got to commend the defensive effort,” he added. “We had to come through adversity with penalties against us and the yellow-card [for Jamie Bhatti at the start of the second-half]. I felt our contact work in attack was the best it has been in the whole campaign. It was an area we were focused on improving after last week so that was really pleasing.

“That allowed us to have some really good attacking moments.” 

Townsend had some special words of praise for his captain, Stuart Hogg, who scored the second of the home team’s four tries, moving the full-back ahead of Ian Smith from Tony Stanger as the nation’s leading all-time try-scorer. 

Reaching that personal landmark was a big moment for Hogg, and Townsend pointed out that it was crucial in terms of getting his team back into the game following a torrid 20-minute spell during the middle of the first half. 

“To get into our attacking flow there was really good movement, a change of direction and for Stuart to get a one-on-one showed pace and evasion,” said the coach. 

“What a brilliant moment. He didn’t have to wait long to break the record, having equalled it last week. There was a nice article in the programme today by Tony Stanger who shared that record that lasted almost 100 years. It is brilliant that our captain was able to break it today.” 

Next up for Scotland is England on the 5th February in the opening round of the 2022 Six Nations. Townsend knows his team will have to be more accurate in attack and disciplined if they are to double-up on their 2021 success over the Auld Enemy, but he insists that that he is pleased with how the squad is shaping up. 

“In this [Autumn] campaign we’ve certainly introduced more players into our squad – 12 new caps which is unheard of – and we’ve seen players thrive in our environment, thrive when they’ve had the opportunity to play,” he said. 

“We’ve developed further, we’ve tried to take our defensive game on, get a bit more extra out of our defence, and it’s something we’re still working on. 

“We’ve been resilient at times,” he continued. “Today and against Australia in particular, we’ve found ways to win. 

“But we’ve also got lots to improve. We’ll play teams with a similar philosophy and strength to South Africa in the Six Nations. We’ll get that in our next game, which is here against England.  

“Every time you play it’s not going to be perfect, but I feel that the players are working so well together. I loved the four weeks in their company and seeing them at training and off the field, and we can’t wait to get them back together in a couple of months’ time.”