Scotland have work to do following France thrashing, says Gregor Townsend

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Gregor Townsend admits Scotland have work to do to get their Rugby World Cup preparations back on track after being dismantled by France in Nice.

The Dark Blues conceded five tries in their opening warm-up clash ahead of next month’s finals in Japan.

The Scots fly out to the Far East in less than a month but the 32-3 mauling was a disastrous start to their pre-tournament schedule.

Townsend’s team simply could not contain the power and intensity of Jacques Brunel’s Les Bleus, who ran in five tries as Maxime Medard’s double was complimented by scores from debutant Alivereti Raka, Gregor Alldritt and Antoine Dupont.

And afterwards the head coach said: “There’s a lot of work to do. We expected a better performance.

“We go into every game we play, no matter the opponent, with the aim of winning and we believed as players and coaches that we were well-prepared for that game.

“Obviously that wasn’t correct. We missed parts of that first half just from not being in place quick enough to stop France getting quick ball and then not capitalising on opportunities we did have.

“France were very good, they seemed like they were in really good condition.

“We know our players are in very good physical condition but obviously tonight the match conditioning fell short but we will be better for the experience.

“But we have to be much, much better in terms of performance over the next three games and then when we get to Japan.”

Townsend names his 31-man squad on September 3 and he believes the result at the Allianz Riviera will be a wake-up call for those players hoping to make the cut.

Townsend – whose side face a return clash with Les Bleus in Edinburgh next Saturday – added: “The team is going to change a lot going into next week’s game so some players won’t get the opportunity to rectify it next week.

“But this is a timely reminder for those playing their first game of the season just how tough international rugby can be if you’re not switched on and don’t make your tackles, as happened a few times tonight.

“We will be demanding a reaction from the players. They will be demanding it too. The target this week will be to show a much truer image of ourselves.”

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Wales players under pressure to perform against England, says boss Warren Gatland

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James Davies - younger brother of centre Jonathan - will win just his fourth cap.

Wales boss Warren Gatland has told his players they are under pressure to perform against World Cup warm-up opponents England on Saturday.

The fierce rivals meet in Cardiff less than a week after Gatland’s men were beaten 33-19 at Twickenham.

Gatland has made just three changes to the line-up in south-west London, and it features 10 players who were on starting duty in a Six Nations title and Grand Slam-clinching victory over Ireland five months ago.

“It’s easy enough to make a lot of changes, but some of the players would have been disappointed with last weekend, and particularly that first 20 minutes,” Gatland said.

“For us, it’s about a chance to redeem ourselves and give those players another hit-out and go out there and perform, and put some pressure on them to perform as well.

“There is a lot of pressure on those guys on the weekend, because if some of them don’t front and don’t perform, they are opening the door for someone else.

Biggar has a big chance to stake a claim for the No10 jersey with Anscombe injured.

Biggar has a big chance to stake a claim for the No10 jersey with Anscombe injured.

“If you win last week and you win this weekend, you pretty much would have sealed, potentially, a starting spot for the first game or first couple of games in the World Cup.

“That’s why we wanted to make sure that players are aware and that they are under pressure.”

Scarlets duo Jonathan and James Davies will become the first set of brothers since 2006 to start for Wales when they feature against England.

Gatland has named openside flanker James, who wins his fourth cap, alongside back-row colleagues Aaron Wainwright and Ross Moriarty, while older sibling Jonathan partners Hadleigh Parkes in midfield.

They are the first set of brothers to play alongside each other for Wales since Jamie and Nicky Robinson 13 years ago.

James Davies replaces Justin Tipuric, while fly-half Dan Biggar takes over from an injured Gareth Anscombe and lock Jake Ball is in for Adam Beard.

“It’s been tough for James,” Gatland added. “He has been really struggling with back issues, and he has dug in in terms of the way he has pushed himself when he has been in a lot of pain.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for him. He is pretty fired up.

“He is kind of someone who for his whole career people have knocked him and said he’s too small and not able to compete at the highest level.

“We probably had some of the same thoughts as well, but having coached him and been involved with him, we have been incredibly impressed with him.

“We’ve always been looking at him and seeing his potential. He has been unfortunate that for a few campaigns he has had injuries. We were very impressed with him in Argentina last year.”

Biggar starts with Anscombe having suffered a World Cup-ending knee ligament injury at Twickenham.

On Anscombe, Gatland said: “He’s done his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and a meniscus as well.

“He did it when he made the break down the sideline. It wasn’t from a tackle, he’s just stepped off his right leg. You can see the jarring on the video.

“He said to the physios he felt he had jarred his knee and stayed on thinking he could run it off.

“He asked the physios if he’d done any more damage, and they said: ‘No, you’d already done that and it wasn’t going to get any worse’.

“Unfortunately, he’s going to require surgery and it’s going to keep him out for most of the season.”

Tipuric (ankle) and Beard (wrist), meanwhile, have been left out as a precaution this weekend.

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Back row injuries help England establish contingency plan in case disaster strikes at World Cup

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Ruaridh McConnochie is set for his England debut.

England have welcomed a string of injuries to their back row as an opportunity to contingency plan in case disaster strikes at the World Cup.

Eddie Jones has taken the unusual step of naming two hookers on the bench for Saturday’s Test against Wales in Cardiff with Jamie George and Jack Singleton supporting Luke Cowan-Dickie.

Singleton won his first cap against the Six Nations Grand Slam champions last weekend and is poised to claim the second as a back row replacement in the World Cup warm-up Test at the Principality Stadium.

Tom Curry, Mark Wilson and Sam Underhill are unavailable through injury, forcing England to examine otherwise unlikely options for the back of the scrum.

“This is actually great for us – it’s the type of thing that could happen to us at the World Cup. Players have to adapt,” forwards coach Steve Borthwick said.

“We’ve got three very good hookers and Jack is there to operate as a utility forward. It’s great opportunity for him and for us to learn to adapt.”

Eddie Jones

Curry (shoulder), Wilson (ribs) and Underhill (toe) are involved in training and should play some part in the remaining two warm-up games against Ireland and Italy.

Henry Slade, however, might miss all four Tests because of his knee injury and has tentatively been pencilled in to face Italy on September 6 – the same date it is hoped his Exeter colleague Jack Nowell will return from an ankle problem.

Ruaridh McConnochie will make his England debut against Wales a week later than hoped for after overcoming a hip problem.

The Bath wing and sevens specialist was picked in the team to face Warren Gatland’s men at Twickenham last weekend but was among a trio of late withdrawals due to injury.

Attack coach Scott Wisemantel is backing the Rio 2016 silver medallist to thrive despite the cauldron-like atmosphere awaiting in the Welsh capital.

“It’s a great opportunity for him. He deserves his chance and it was unfortunate last week when he had the minor injury blow,” Wisemantel said.

“Cardiff on Saturday will be intense but once he gets going and once the whistle is blown, he’ll just settle into things and will be fine.

“He won’t have any problems. The guy has played on the big stage – the Olympic Games. So it won’t be a problem at all.

“He’ll draw on that experience, but he’ll also be focused on the game. He’ll do the job and do it well.”

Anthony Watson has been left out of the matchday 23 after completing his comeback from a 17-month absence due to an Achilles issues, so Joe Cokanasiga lines up on the opposite wing.

Owen Farrell is set for his first start in the warm-up games.

Owen Farrell is set for his first start in the warm-up games.

England captain Owen Farrell makes his first appearance of the World Cup warm-up schedule but is confined to a place on the bench, meaning George Ford will lead the team once more.

In total there are three changes to the side that routed Wales 33-19 with Maro Itoje restored to the second row in place of Charlie Ewels with Joe Launchbury still present.

The final adjustment comes in the back row where Courtney Lawes packs down at blindside flanker, forcing Lewis Ludlam to switch to seven.

Piers Francis and Jonathan Joseph are reunited as the centre pairing and New Zealand-born Willi Heinz wins his second cap at scrum-half.

“We want to back up Sunday. We feel there are areas of growth that we can show on Saturday,” Ford said.

“Going to Cardiff is brilliant for us. It’s brilliant for us as players to be challenged like that. We’re coming up against strong opponents so we’ll make the most of it.”

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