WITH just over a week to the first of Scotland’s 2022 Guinness Six Nations matches against England at Murrayfield, it is already clear that Head Coach Gregor Townsend is going to ignore my advice in a recent column that he should be using this and next year’s tournaments and the Autumn Tests merely as springboards for next year’s World Cup.

I’m glad that when he announced the squad for the Six Nations that he admitted to experimentation during the Autumn Tests – as forward coach John Dalziel stated at the time, it was all about preparing for the World Cup.

“It was a different philosophy in November,” Townsend said. “We didn’t consider the likes of WP Nel because we wanted to look at others during that period, but the Six Nations is about winning. It’s about improving from game to game, putting your best team out to win us the game. The World Cup is a big tournament but it’s 18 months away. For us, the Six Nations is the biggest tournament and we get to play in that every year.”

This of course was just after he announced the selection of five uncapped players – all of whom I agree should have their chance – as well as the dropping of Adam Hastings and the likes of Fraser Brown and Huw Jones from the initial squad which, frankly, looks a bit like experimenting to me.

Townsend as a player was often quite brilliant because he did the unexpected thing, and he has done that as a coach at Glasgow Warriors and now with Scotland. Yet while he is bringing in new blood, I detect with his latest squad that he is staying true to his credo – developing the squad’s strength in depth with players dedicated to the way of playing that has made Scotland such an entertaining side in recent years.

High tempo and inherently risky, the Townsend method of play has suited Scotland well, and indeed I recently saw some stats which showed that he is the most successful recent Scottish coach in terms of games won.

The squad needs to improve its discipline at all times, and play a full 80-odd minutes every time. They did both of those things against England last year and ended up dominating the game more or less from start to finish, though it is unlikely that the English squad will be as flat and lifeless as they were at Twickenham. They will also surely improve their discipline – the tally of 15 penalties conceded was their joint most in a match since Eddie Jones took over, and he will be reminding them of that.

Scotland still have a lot of work to do, as evidence by the poor showing against World Champions South Africa. You can bet the lineouts and scrums will improve as forwards coach John Dalziel gets his men to work.

Unlike England counterpart Jones who will not be able to put out his strongest 23 due to injuries to Owen Farrell and Johnny May, with Courtney Lawes also a doubt, Townsend should be able to pick the best 23 available to him, and I’m pretty certain he already knows most of the names that will appear on the team sheet.

It will not be easy to finalise the starting XV, simply because at the moment, Scotland have so many good players in form. The speculation has already started and I’ll add my tuppenceworth and say that those eight players who went on the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa will all start against England with the remaining seven being a case of perm any one from three in each position – that’s how strong this squad is now.

Most importantly, Townsend wants wins in this year’s Six Nations, and so he will pick form players used to winning and who will make the fewest mistakes. That is right out of the Ian McGeechan play book – make no mistakes yourselves and punish the other side’s errors every time.

Townsend should also have no need to inspire his men a week on Saturday, but if he wants to do so he could just show the squad the video clips of them all rejoicing like mad things at the conclusion of last year’s epic victory at Twickenham. That’s what it feels like to win, he should say, and wouldn’t you like to feel that way again? Then he must challenge them to do what no Scotland side has done since 1983-84 and win two matches against England in succession. And no Scottish fan will need reminding that in the latter year, Scotland went on to win the Grand Slam

I really believe that is what’s at stake at Murrayfield – a chance to win the tournament, though at this moment my betting money is going to be on Ireland, which hopefully will see the Curse of Hannan’s Wagers upon them.

I will preview the England match next week, and try and read the convoluted mind of Eddie Jones.