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Scotland's Gregor Townsend insists France clash must be played

The Scots return to action against Ireland on Sunday following a frustrating month of inaction since their defeat to Wales.

Gregor Townsend admits there was never a chance of Scotland being awarded a walkover win in Paris – and he would not want one anyway.

The Scots return to action against Ireland on Sunday following a frustrating month of inaction since their defeat to Wales.

Their February 28 clash with France was called off after an outbreak of coronavirus was allowed to run wild through Fabien Galthie's squad, infecting 14 players and a string of backroom staff.

Galthie himself was among those to test positive, with the Les Bleus coach later forced to admit he had left the team's bubble to watch his son play rugby.

And the revelation that a number of players also broke tournament Covid rules when they left the team's hotel to go out for waffles following last month's win over Italy in Rome sparked further criticism.

RUGBYU Scotland
PA Graphics

There was even calls in some quarters – including from former Scotland star Johnnie Beattie – for France to forfeit the match, with Scotland awarded a 28-0 win.

Such a contingency plan was utilised during last year's Autumn Nations Cup when the Fiji squad was struck by the virus – but Townsend admits it was never an option for the Guinness Six Nations.

And even if it was, he believes it is essential for the legitimacy of the competition that the game goes ahead with both teams at full strength, with March 26 already pencilled in as the likely rescheduled date.

The Scotland boss said: "We were all aware of the rules going into the tournament and knew there wasn't going to be a 28-0 win or even a draw. It was always going to be a postponement.

"You could follow all the rules and protocols and still end up with the virus in your camp.

Gregor Townsend does not want a walkover win against France
Gregor Townsend does not want a walkover win against France (Jane Barlow/PA)

"Our players are coming in from other teams every second week so I don't think you could set something up (to issue forfeits) because it could be down to bad luck as well as any other circumstance.

"We want the game played and so do France. Let's hope it gets played in the next three weeks."

Six Nations chiefs remain locked in talks with French and English clubs to allow Scotland access to their overseas-based players.

As March 26 lies outside the international window, the Gallagher Premiership and Top 14 outfits would be under no obligation to release their players.

But Townsend is confident a solution will be worked out.

France head coach Fabien Galthie was forced to apologise after leaving France's bubble to watch his son play rugby
France head coach Fabien Galthie was forced to apologise after leaving France's bubble to watch his son play rugby (Adam Davy/PA)

However, the new date leaves the Dark Blues looking at a gruelling schedule of three games over consecutive weekends as they follow up Sunday's showdown with Ireland with next week's visit of Italy.

"The players are focused," said Townsend. "They know we're likely to have three games in three weeks, so they are up for that and we're certainly aware of what a big challenge this week is.

"We know there's a date out there on March 26 that would suit everybody and would link very closely to the tournament so it finishes just a week after the other games.

"But there are a few things that have to be sorted, notably getting all our players available and agreed to be released from clubs in England and France.

"I believe those discussions are ongoing but I'm not sure when those will be resolved. But I hope it will be soon.

"It's not going to be my decision on this but for a tournament of the standing of the Guinness Six Nations we need the best players playing against the best players available.

RUGBYU Scotland Head to Head
PA Graphics

"We certainly want a full group of players to select from and I'm sure that's what everyone is working towards."

Scotland's recent record against Ireland has been woeful, with just one win in their last 10 meetings.

And Townsend admits his side cannot afford to let Andy Farrell's team off the hook like they did when they last met in Dublin back in December.

He said: "In the last three games against Ireland we've created openings. In the autumn we were 9-3 up and playing really good rugby.

"But then they dominated for periods and put points on the board.

"We know it's going to be a real physical contest and that Ireland will have some time in our 22. We just have to make sure they don't come away with points on a regular basis and we must make sure we take our chances when we get them."

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Ireland head coach Andy Farrell ahead of the match on February 23, 2020
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