Townsend: These Scots are going to get better
REACTION: Scotland is going to build on the momentum created by a successful Six Nations campaign, said head coach Gregor Townsend.
He made the statement after announcing the team to play Italy in the year-end Nations Cup.
Scotland finished fourth in the table, but recorded wins over runners-up France and the 2019 Grand Slam champions Wales.
But for captain Stuart Hogg dropping the ball over the tryline they might well have also beaten Ireland.
“While we gained confidence from the win over Wales, we have been working hard to improve in all areas of our game,” said Townsend.
“We believe that there is a lot more to come from this group of players.
“The energy has been great at training and we are seeing real competition for places throughout our squad.
“We are looking forward to this squad grabbing their opportunity to play and take the game to the opposition.”
Townsend has made four changes to the line-up that started the 14-10 victory over Wales – their first on Welsh soil since 2002 – a fortnight ago.
(Article continues below video … )
Duncan Weir comes in at flyhalf with Sam Johnson getting his first start this year-end at centre.
Weir will win his 29th cap and gets a chance to impress Townsend as both the players ahead of him, Finn Russell and Adam Hastings, have been ruled out of the tournament due to injuries they suffered in the Wales game.
Duhan van der Merwe gets the nod on the wing with Blair Kinghorn dropping to the bench.
Hogg wins his 78th cap whilst his predecessor as skipper Stuart McInally is the fourth change from the Wales clash starting at hooker – first-choice Fraser Brown is injured.
Hogg’s teammates from European and Premiership champions Exeter, Sam Skinner and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, are called up to the replacements bench for the game in Florence.
Townsend said even though Italy finished with the wooden spoon in the Six Nations and without a point they had shown signs of how dangerous they could be in the games against Ireland and champions England.
“Italy recorded a famous win against South Africa in this stadium,” said Townsend.
“We are well aware of the quality they have in their squad that they can raise their game to a similar level this weekend.”