Kyle Sinckler interview: ‘I now cherish every moment


Yet Townsend also pointed out that many of Scotland’s top players already knew they could face the best that England, and to a lesser extent France, could offer them as they do so every week for their clubs. It’s a fair point: of these eight Scottish Lions, four play in England and one in France.

Furthermore, familiarity with Irish and Welsh teams and players has hardly helped Scotland in matches against these two nations over the past 20 years.

“There can be micro-discussions around certain players, whether it’s what they do in certain scrums or someone who likes to defend in a different way, but we get that also through our players who play in England,” Townsend said. “Stuart [Hogg] plays at Exeter alongside some England players, and Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner are there too. We have players at every English club, so the players will provide as much information as what we picked up in South Africa.”

It was a point backed by the Scottish captain, who plays weekly alongside Gray, Skinner and England regulars such as Jonny Hill, Sam Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Henry Slade.

In the professional era, Hogg says, familiarity with top players is not a problem for Scotland, although he admitted having to return to clubs where team-mates might have bragging rights after the match. Calcutta Cup brings something of an advantage to proceedings.

“Yeah, you could say that,” he laughed. “But we are focusing a lot on ourselves. For the boys and the coaches who have toured, we can pick up little bits from the English players, the Welsh and the Irish. But we will mainly focus on ourselves and making sure that we get everything is fine.”

That said, Townsend spoke last week about the threat posed by Marcus Smith, who he first met in South Africa when he joined the Lions as cover for injured Finn Russell. The Scotland manager admitted he had learned enough about Smith in that short spell to know his presence would change the way England play and his duel with Russell was a mouth-watering showdown.

“The quality of training over this last week in South Africa and the way Marcus and Finn were training was amazing,” said Townsend. “We are delighted to have Finn with us, but I’m sure England are also delighted that Marcus did well and played so well in November.

“They are different styles from 10 to 10 or 15 years ago, but they have a lot of common vision and skills in terms of how they play the game, whether it’s a passing game , running or a shorter kicking game,” he added. “It could be a new way of playing that we’re seeing, that more and more 10s are adopting. It’s more of an attacking game than just a facilitation game.”

Proof, if any were needed, that whether or not his players learned anything new about the England Lions during their time in South Africa, Townsend certainly had his eyes wide open.

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