"Man for the Long Term" - Ex Scotland Flanker David Denton Has Faith in Gregor Townsend Ahead of Ireland Clash - Ruck

“Man for the Long Term” – Ex Scotland Flanker David Denton Has Faith in Gregor Townsend Ahead of Ireland Clash

Former Scotland international David Denton has expressed his support for Head Coach Gregor Townsend, ahead of this Saturday’s Rugby World Cup Pool B match against Ireland. It truly is ‘make-or-break’ time for Scotland, and defeat to Ireland would eliminate them from the competition.

There is no denying that Scotland were dealt cruel cards in the tournament’s draw. They entered the Rugby World Cup ranked at fifth in the world, but due to the draw taking place in December 2020, they found themselves in the ‘Pool of Death’ alongside South Africa and Ireland.

Scotland were defeated by the Springboks, in an albeit contesting encounter that ended 18-3. Scotland are against the odds for a spot in the quarter-finals, as Ireland are currently enjoying a 16-match winning streak, as the world’s number one ranked side. However, even if the men from North of the Border are eliminated from the Rugby World Cup this weekend, Denton believes that Head Coach Townsend is the ‘long term’ man for the job.

Speaking to OLBG, Denton said;

“Gregor is a fantastic coach technically. He takes his learning very seriously and has spent a lot of time going to different teams and leagues and sports trying to figure out what people are doing differently.

Gregor Townsend, Head Coach of Scotland during the Scotland Captains Run ahead of the Guinness Six Nations at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on Friday 3rd February 2023 | Photo: James Fearn/PPAUK.

“It is so important to embrace that. He is the man for the long term for Scotland.”

“It is definitely the best (Scotland team) I’ve seen since I’ve been here. The strength in depth is fantastic, the back row how interchangeable it is, the fact they haven’t had Hamish Watson on the bench. He is an incredible player. 

“We have competition across the board and that has been a long time coming. Since Gregor was Glasgow coach.”

“It will be disappointing but not a massive set back in the long term great scheme of things (if Scotland lose). We are playing the best team in the world and we are capable of beating them. They are a more proven team but that is how sport works. Any team can win on a given day and this Scotland team certainly has a great chance.”

Denton represented Scotland for eight years, after making his test debut against none other than Ireland in a 2011 Rugby World Cup warm-up match. The former back-rower knows all to well the physical battle that Ireland bring to the pitch, and identifies this as the area where the match will be won or lost on Saturday.

“I cannot stress enough if you lose the physical battle you lose the game. When I was starting, the choke tackle was a big thing and Ireland did that very well. 

“Ireland have been good for a long time, and very good for the past few seasons. They are so well rounded. This is as tough a test match as you will get.”

“We need to at least match Ireland up front. What was really promising is that in the first 60 minutes against South Africa we matched them physically and there’s no-one in the world more physical than South Africa. We showed we can match them.

“We have two of the top teams in the world coming up against each other and the margins are going to be really fine.

“Scotland will look at their second rows to take the ball forward. Sione Tuipulotu will also be key. Making yards is going to be vital to give the likes of Darcy Graham, Blair Kinghorn and Duhan van Der Merwe the space that they need to create these magical moments. Scotland have shown they can score points in any context and any defence.”

The former Leicester Tigers man then turned his attention to two men who will be decisive pillars for their own teams. Denton recognised how the fly half duo of Finn Russell and Johnny Sexton, will both have instrumental impacts upon how the match will play out in Saint-Denis.

“With Finn at ten he has an unbelievable ability to play what is in front of him. He is so naturally gifted. But what people overlook with him is that he is an extremely hard worker and he can be very pragmatic. He has matured so much as a player over the last few years. You can see it on the pitch just how he varies what he does.

“You will see one or two moments when we really try and up the tempo. I think that is where Gregor will think we can get a little edge, catching them off guard and not letting them get set.”

“I saw an interview with Finn Russell the other day and that was very enlightening. He was focusing a lot on defence. It is going to be very hard for us to score many points. 

Finn Russell of Scotland goes over for a try during the Guinness Six Nations match between England and Scotland at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on the 16th March 2019. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK.

“It looks like Scotland’s focus is to try and stymie their attack as much as we can which is easier said than done. First and foremost we must stop them scoring points but that alone won’t do.”

“You can boil it down to their (Russell and Sexton’s) performances having an impact on the result. But not necessarily how they go against each other head to head. They both pop up all over the field. Finn’s biggest strength is opening up the wide channels for others.”

Jonathan Sexton, Captain of Ireland looks dejected during the Guinness Six Nations Match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on February 23. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

The is no understating how big a victory this would be for Scotland. Denton certainly recognises this, and he is eager to see his former side live up to their potential and announce their intentions on the world’s stage. Denton believes that Scotland have been overlooked for too long, and a win against Andy Farrell’s side would have an enormous impact on Scotland’s standings within the titans of international rugby.

“It would be a massive statement. This team has been slowly and quietly growing over the past few years. No-one ever says we are a true threat in a World Cup or Six Nations. But winning this game would draw a line in the sand and announce this team on the world stage officially.”

“Knowing Gregor, they will focus on what they do best and that is to try and play the fastest rugby in the world.

“You will see pragmatic play at the start. Finn has been really good in the big games in pinning teams back. We will see a lot of that but we will also try to mix it up because if you keep throwing the same thing against Ireland they can more than match it.”

“It’s been said a thousand times before that the pool draw hasn’t been kind to us. This game was always going to be the crunch game. And they are in a good place. Scotland can handle the pressure and make sure they keep emotions in check.”

Ireland certainly enter this match on era-defining momentum, with their last match being the victory over South Africa at the Stade de France. Denton recognises the threats that Ireland bring, and despite having his heart behind Scotland, his head thinks Andy Farrell’s men will take a narrow victory this weekend.

“Ireland’s main threat is going to be their physicality. The likes of Bundee Aki and Caelan Doris, who are really abrasive players. They don’t make many mistakes.”

“I think Ireland will just nudge it. They are the best team in the world. But we will fire a lot of shots.”