Scotland coach Townsend says Saracens relegation could bring England together

By Ed Elliot, PA

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend believes Saracens’ imminent Premiership relegation will either galvanise rivals England or cause divisions in their squad during the Guinness Six Nations.

Gallagher Premiership champions Sarries, who have seven players in Eddie Jones’ squad, were last week punished following a breach of salary cap rules.

Scotland welcome England to Murrayfield on February 8 during the second round of fixtures and Townsend admits to being unsure how their opponents will be affected by the situation.

“Who knows? Sometimes things like this bring a group closer together – as you saw in the second half at the weekend of the Saracens-Racing game, it brought them closer together,” said Townsend.

“A lot of those players will be in the England team and going through adversity, coming up against certain challenges, it can make you stronger, or it can go the other way.

“We’ll see over the next few weeks.”

Townsend’s own 38-man squad includes Saracens wing Sean Maitland.

The 46-year-old admits it has been difficult period for Maitland, as well as Sarries team-mate Duncan Taylor, who travelled to last year’s World Cup but has been left out for the Six Nations.

“It’s a surprise for everyone that something like this has happened in rugby and it’s a huge change,” said Townsend.

“It provides lots of commentaries and articles.

Scotland’s Sean Maitland (left) plays his club rugby with Saracens (David Davies/PA)

“We’ve got a few players at Saracens – Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor were in our World Cup squad – so I imagine it’s been a tough, challenging time for them over the last few weeks.

“But our focus is on the international group, the players we work with.

“Sean is part of our squad but obviously the English Premiership hasn’t got much relevance for us as a national team.”

Townsend’s men begin the tournament on February 1 against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Aside from winning against Italy in Rome, the Scots have not managed a Six Nations away victory since beating the Irish at Croke Park in 2010.

Townsend says ending that dismal run of form away from Murrayfield is a major priority going into the tournament.

“They’re difficult because teams are very good and teams have excellent home records,” he said of securing away victories.

“Ireland have lost one (home) game in the championship in the last five years, so that just shows how difficult it is for any team to win away from home.

“You have to be at your very best, you have to stay in the fight, you can’t give the opposition easy points, you can’t get the crowd even more energised than it is.

“We’ve got to be better, we know that, that’s a key focus for us.

“Starting with an away game this year – even though it’s a really tough challenge – is the best preparation for us to see where we are, see if we have learnt over they last few years of how we can do better away from home and what we have to work on after that.”