GREGOR Townsend has admitted that as a young player he would get carried away by the emotion of playing for Scotland against England, and that as a result he failed to play to his best.

As he prepares his players for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham, the Scotland coach wants them to be inspired by confidence in their own abilities rather than drawing too much on the whole mystique of the oldest fixture in international rugby.

“I drew on it too much when I was growing up,” the Scotland coach recalled. “I was playing age-group rugby at the time of the 1990 Grand Slam, and when I came up against England at schoolboy level and then played for Scotland at a young age, I put too much emotion into my performances.

“We know the importance of the fixture for our people, the historic importance, the joy it brings when we beat England. That’s there in the background. But from a coaching perspective it’s about [getting] a sense of where the players are.”

The historic importance is more obvious than ever this year, as it is the 150th anniversary of the first meeting between the two countries. Of course, that first international was held at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh and was won by the home side.

But this year also marks the 50th anniversary of a celebrated

win for Scotland at Twickenham – a result that became all the more special when it was followed by another victory just a week later at Murrayfield in a match arranged to commem-

orate the centenary.

Townsend is confident that careful preparation in the days and weeks leading up to the match will ensure that his

players go into it with the correct attitude, and that they do not get too caught up in thinking about the past.

“If they’re ready throughout their preparation then it doesn’t need much more focus on the emotional side. If we feel they don’t understand the importance of the game, we can add that.

“But I don’t see that with this group. The energy they’re bringing at training, the fact we’ve got so many quality

players now competing for pos-itions in the team. It’s about allowing them to go out and express themselves and learn, if you’re in the game, how to win.”

Stuart Bathgate