Six Nations 2019: Scotland ‘have to improve for Ireland test’ after Italy win – Townsend

Six Nations 2019: Scotland ‘have to improve for Ireland test’ after Italy win – Townsend
Six Nations 2019: Townsend ‘very pleased’ with Scotland’s winning start

Scotland will be tested in all areas by Ireland next Saturday as they seek to build on an opening Six Nations win over Italy, Gregor Townsend has warned.

The head coach declared himself “very pleased” by a first hour that saw the Scots score five tries and lead 33-3.

But he admitted the closing stages were “disappointing”, with three Italy tries following Simon Berghan’s yellow card.

“We have obviously got to improve from today, but I was pleased with the way we managed the game,” Townsend said.

“Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg were excellent with their kicking game and their decision-making on the ball. That is going to be important next week.

“Ireland will test you wherever they see an area of opportunity. They will run it from their own 22 if we have not got our spacing right, they will test us at the set-piece and are an excellent defensive team.”

Six Nations Shuffle: Howlers, hat-tricks, freezing temperatures & epic comebacks

‘Kinghorn took his tries superbly’

Edinburgh full-back Blair Kinghorn, who started on the left wing in the absence of the injured Sean Maitland, became the first Scotland player to score a Six Nations hat-trick.

It was the first for Scotland in the championship since Iwan Tukalo’s treble against Ireland in 1989.

“It was awesome to score three times; I’m over the moon,” said the 22-year-old, who now has six tries from eight Tests. “To score any try is brilliant. I was just lucky to be on the receiving end of some great passing and a great kick from Finn Russell.

“It’s cool to have my name up on Scotland’s list of hat-trick scorers though.”

With Maitland likely to be available for selection next week as he recovers from a hamstring injury, Townsend admits Kinghorn’s display “makes selection that bit harder”.

“Blair took his tries superbly. His timing on the ball, his strength and his footwork was excellent,” said Townsend, who also praised Hogg for an “outstanding” contribution.

The full-back was back to his sparkling best in attack, and dotted down his 19th Test try, drawing level with team-mate Tommy Seymour in fourth place on Scotland’s all-time list.

The Glasgow Warriors back also had another ruled out after a stunning break, much to Townsend’s displeasure.

“I can’t believe that try was disallowed,” he told BBC Sport. “One of our players was pushed off the ball, Stuart scored a world-class try and it gets chalked off.”

Six Nations: Blair Kinghorn hat-trick seals opening Scotland win v Italy

Scotland next welcome champions Ireland, who they beat in the corresponding fixture two years ago.

Joe Schmidt’s side won the Grand Slam last season but suffered a surprise 32-20 home defeat by England in their opening match of this campaign.

Captain Greig Laidlaw admitted Scotland will have to raise their intensity after a slack final 10 minutes in which they conceded tries from Guglielmo Palazzani, Edoardo Padovani and Angelo Esposito.

“We were quite happy with the middle part of the game, the way we put Italy under pressure,” Laidlaw told BBC Sport.

“But against quality opposition like Ireland, we can’t release a Test match like that. We were well in control and just gave Italy momentum by being less aggressive and slipping off tackles.

“That will heighten our awareness for next week against a quality team.”

‘You have to question the mental side of this Scottish team’ – analysis

Former Scotland captain Andy Nicol: “Those last 10 minutes has taken the gloss off but let’s not under-estimate a bonus-point win to start the Six Nations, which is exactly what they wanted. I think they will be very happy with that.”

Former England centre Jeremy Guscott: “You have to question the mental side of this Scottish team. If you look at the best teams in the world, they wouldn’t have allowed that to happen. For me, they started to look ahead toward the next game, but you can’t afford to do that at this level.”

Injured Scotland flanker John Barclay: “The Italy tries were quite soft. [Defence coach] Matt Taylor would have been thrilled up to that point, thinking about keeping a clean sheet. They were a man down, yes, but the tries were quite easy, almost walk-ins.”

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