Gregor Townsend dismissed claims that Scotland are “red-hot favourites” as he named his line-up for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash at BT Murrayfield.
Townsend was responding to comments made from England counterpart Eddie Jones, who insisted all the expectation is on the hosts in the upcoming Six Nations contest following Scotland’s victory at Twickenham last February.
He said: “Every coach does this little song and dance going into a game trying to convince the media they are underdogs and telling the players their backs are against the wall, ‘we’re going to this hostile place’.
“The bookies pick the favourites and I know we’re not the favourites with them. It’s not really something we talk about or worry about.
“The reason we’re being spoken about like that is because our players have driven the standards in training and have gone through experiences – not always pleasant – that have made them better and brought them closer together as a group.
“We have our own expectations, which is to deliver performances that we’re capable of. In last year’s Six Nations, three games stood out for us where we were close to our best: England, Italy and France.
“The aim for us is to try to do that in five games.”
Townsend has named his line-up for Saturday’s showdown, with Exeter lock Jonny Gray starting for the first time since March 2021.
He will be joined in the forwards pack by Grant Gilchrist, who will be one appearance away from reaching 50 caps, Worcester prop Rory Sutherland, and Glasgow pair, hooker George Turner and prop Zander Fagerson.
Edinburgh duo Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson will combine with Matt Fagerson from Glasgow in the back row.
Finn Russell and Ali Price will partner each other at nine and ten for the fourth-consecutive game, while Duhan Van Der Merwe starts on the wing, with Darcy Graham on the opposite flank.
Captain Stuart Hogg is to start at full-back, while Gloucester’s Chris Harris and Glasgow’s Sam Johnson are set to combine in the centre.
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