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Scotland enjoy winning start to World Cup warm-up programme

CAPE TOWN : Success for Scotland over Italy in their first World Cup warm-up test on Saturday was far from convincing but still left coach Gregor Townsend pleased with a win under their belt some six weeks before the kick-off of the tournament in France.

Scotland beat Italy 25-13 at Murrayfield in the first of four internationals ahead of September’s World Cup start and next take on the French at home this Saturday, and away the week after, as they look to finalise their 33-man squad for the tournament.

“There’s a lot around the World Cup squad selection but really the important thing is to get the team out there to play these big games so we go into the South Africa game with a team that’s gelled together and played in big games,” said Townsend, whose side’s first game in Pool B at the World Cup is against holders South Africa in Marseille on Sept. 10.

“France are hosting the World Cup and they’re full of confidence so we’ll be putting out as strong a team as possible over the next two weeks.”

Against Italy, Townsend had experimented and left out many of his regulars to look at some of the fringe candidates.

“From a coach’s perspective, you don’t want a game with no errors. You want a win, but you want things to work on during the week. There are bigger tests to come. We want to move forward with the confidence of a win, but knowing we have to work to get better,” the Scotland coach added.

“Handling was a concern, especially in first and second phases. We weren’t able to apply the pressure we aim to apply on Italy. I felt our defence was really secure. Set-piece, the defence of the maul. Our scrum was dominant throughout. That will be pleasing for the players and the coaches. Next week we have to tidy up those handling errors.”

The return of winger Darcy Graham, who scored two of Scotland’s three tries on Saturday, was a boost. He had missed the Six Nations championship earlier in the year after a serious knee injury.

“Darcy is always good on that cutback line so we aim to get the ball in his hands as much as possible but we didn’t do that as much as we’d like. When you get the ball into Darcy’s hands, usually good things happen,” Townsend added.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Bernadette Baum and David Evans)

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