Townsend praises Hogg leadership through "tough time"


Rome (AFP)

Gregor Townsend praised captain Stuart Hogg's leadership through a "tough time" as the full-back scored Scotland's first try of the Six Nations to spark a 17-0 win over Italy in Rome on Saturday.

Hogg had squandered a try against Ireland with his errors also costing his team against England.

But after a confidence-boosting performance with Exeter last weekend the full-back scored a stunning solo effort in the Stadio Olimpico.

The Scots came away from Rome with three tries with Chris Harris and Adam Hastings also touching down in the second half.

"He marked his captaincy with a win and also with a great try," said Townsend.

"He's been full of positive energy and shown good leadership through a tough time losing games and other distractions.

"His decision making at the back and putting more pressure on Italy was very good.

"His lowest point was probably how cold he was in the press conference after that England game but getting back to Exeter last week was a really good thing.

"He just looked professional and full of energy and scored a great try for them and a great try for us today."

Scotland lost to Ireland and England without scoring a try, and had a disappointing World Cup campaign.

But they came away from the Stadio Olimpico without conceding a point to the Italians in Rome for the first time in the Six Nations.

"The nothing (0) is more important (than the win)," said Townsend of the score.

"When you come away from home against any team and you don't concede a try and you don't concede a point then you put in a very good defensive performance.

"Our best performance was against Ireland but today was a win and that means a lot more than against Ireland

"Maybe this can give us momentum going into the last two games."

Scotland next host France at Murrayfield before travelling to Wales for their final game.

Townsend himself has been under-fire after a disappointing World Cup and the exile of fly-half Finn Russell after a falling out for breaching team protocol.

He added that there was "still selection competition even though we won today".

"We'll look at what we need to do better and if that means bringing in some other players."

Hogg praised his side for being "in control, calm and composed".

"I believed in the boys from the very beginning," he said.

"We haven't performed the way we wanted to in the last couple of games.

"This group is now on track, it's a huge confidence boost for us," said Hogg.

"Today we executed and the exiting thing is we can get better, we're going to enjoy that one.

"I said to the boys afterwards it wasn't perfect by any means, but nothing ever is going to be perfect, but our attitude was spot on."