Rugby Union: Scotland full of praise for half-back pair

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

Scotland are ready to stand by the half-back pairing of Gregor Townsend and Bryan Redpath who inspired them to victory over Ireland in their opening game in the Five Nations' Championship.

Team-mates and opponents were united in praise of the pair whose display in the 16-10 win in Dublin should leave Craig Chalmers and Gary Armstrong kicking their heels on the sidelines.

Armstrong, the scrum-half, impressed in Scotland A's defeat by Ireland on Friday, but will find it difficult to dislodge Redpath for the visit of France to Murrayfield in 12 days' time.

Chalmers, too, will have to settle for another game on the replacements' bench after seeing Townsend, who plays his club rugby for Northampton at centre, make the Scottish stand-off position his own.

Jim Telfer, the director of rugby, hinted there might be changes for the game against France, but they are unlikely to include the half-backs who so influenced Scotland's success on Saturday. "Gregor is showing signs of knowing when and where to play on the pitch for the good of the team," Richie Dixon, the Scottish coach, said. "He always poses an individual threat, but now he's learned to harness that with patterns of play the team require to advance the game and to score."

Murray Kidd, Ireland's knowledgeable New Zealand coach, added his praise, saying: "He did all the things we expected him to do, except we didn't expect him to get that drop goal which was a bit of a killer. He controls the game very well and keeps the pace of the game up. He is always putting pressure on."

But there was also praise for Redpath after his 16th and probably best display for Scotland, including the kick to touch which set up the first try from Kevin McKenzie. "I thought Bryan had a key role and played superbly," Rob Wainwright, the captain, said. "When we forwards ran out of breath he was always there, encouraging us. He deserves a lot of credit."

Dixon, however, has warned against complacency as Scotland prepare to meet the favourites, France, whose recent record at Murrayfield is miserable. "I haven't seen enough of the new France, but I would certainly hope we could use this as a benchmark for progressing and not to be satisfied with what we achieved against Ireland. But we must keep our feet on the ground, because there is still a lot of work to do," he said.

Ireland look likely to make several changes for their next game in Paris in a month. One option for Kidd and his assistant and fellow New Zealander, John Mitchell, is to turn to the former New Zealand full-back, John Gallagher, who made an unspectacular debut for Ireland A at Donnybrook. Gallagher's experience could be useful in an Irish midfield which lacked a cutting edge against a determined Scottish defence.

Eric Elwood, the outside-half under pressure from Paul Burke, was criticised for missing two kicks at goal, although it is the scrum-half Chris Saverimutto who could pay the price for defeat. There are also likely to be changes up front, especially among the back row and at No 8, where the Irish trio were outclassed by their Scottish counterparts.

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