Sunday 23 July 2017

Townsend prepared to be tough on Scotland after 'fear of god' aura was lifted following Cotter departure

21 October 2016; Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend arrives for the funeral of Munster Rugby head coach Anthony Foley at the St. Flannans Church, Killaloe, Co Clare. The Shannon club man, with whom he won 5 All Ireland League titles, played 202 times for Munster and was capped for Ireland 62 times, died suddenly in Paris on November 16, 2016 at the age of 42. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
21 October 2016; Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend arrives for the funeral of Munster Rugby head coach Anthony Foley at the St. Flannans Church, Killaloe, Co Clare. The Shannon club man, with whom he won 5 All Ireland League titles, played 202 times for Munster and was capped for Ireland 62 times, died suddenly in Paris on November 16, 2016 at the age of 42. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Andy Newport

Gregor Townsend may be known as rugby's 'Mr Nice Guy' but the new Scotland coach insists he is prepared to take the tough approach if it means getting his reign off to a winning start.

The former Glasgow boss has used his first three weeks as national team boss to spell out his plan of attack ahead of their Asia-Pacific summer tour.

And so far he has done nothing to reshape the reputation he built up during his Scotstoun days as a man who is as fair as he is friendly.

But Townsend is well aware the kind of stern approach favoured by predecessor Vern Cotter can have its uses.

Prop Zander Fagerson last week claimed the departure of the Kiwi has seen the "fear of God" lifted from the squad, with Townsend preferring a softer hand.

But the new man says he is ready to crack the whip if that is the requirement to ensure Scotland continue on the upward trend set by Cotter.

In his last press conference before the team departs for Singapore, where they will face Italy on June 10, he said: "Every coach has a different approach but you're all motivated to get the same thing, which is getting that team to perform at its best and win.

"There are different ways of doing it but we certainly want to work in collaboration with the players, so as we get closer to the Italy game we want the players taking over the game plan and driving it.

"If that means prodding them or encouraging them to get that to happen, then you will. You always get a sense of what is the right spirit of engagement or the right words to use.

"But this is a whole squad who want to improve and win."

However, the former Scotland and British and Irish Lions stand-off does not foresee himself having to bare his teeth so early into his reign.

After their Singapore stop-off, the Dark Blues head to Sydney to face Australia on June 17 before travelling to Fiji to face the Polynesians a week later.

Tours, with their long periods of down time and opportunity for excess, can sometimes be laced with the potential for misdemeanour.

But Townsend expects his men to realise the opportunities available to them and behave accordingly.

"We have to do things right on the field and off the field," he said. "It's important we get to know each other and get used to each other's company.

"The three places we are visiting are brilliant places to visit as a tourist, never mind as a rugby player. Not many will have visited Singapore so this will be new. Our match will be the first rugby international to be played in an indoor stadium.

"Sydney is a brilliant city to visit and great place to play, while Fiji is a dream place for a rugby player to play. You see people playing the game in fields as you drive past, it's a very different experience to a normal everyday walk of life.

"So all three places are stimulating.

"But we have to make sure - and I include the players when I say we - that we're enjoying each other's company and doing things to alleviate any potential boredom. But I don't think that will be an issue."

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