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Scotland aiming for perfect start to Six Nations campaign

Gregor Townsend and his players face Italy in the first test of the campaign.

Test: Townsend is preparing for Italy.
Test: Townsend is preparing for Italy. SNS Group

Scotland begin their Six Nations campaign against Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday and Gregor Townsend and his players are determined to start as they mean to go on.

Captain Greig Laidlaw said that every focus was on the here and now despite the World Cup later this year.

Scotland defeated England and France at Murrayfield in last year's Six Nations, though they were defeated by South Africa in the Autumn Tests, and Laidlaw said that home turf would be important once again.

He said: "The confidence we get from playing at home is still there because the Springboks match was a game we certainly could have won against a very good team.

"We're really proud of our record here and we want to build on it.

"We don't fear anyone playing here at Murrayfield."

Head coach Gregor Townsend hasn't had injury problems to seek as he made his preparations and although he named a 31-man squad last month, he also published a 19-man injury list.

Nevertheless, Townsend has looked to the positives and believes fresher faces can bring benefits, singling out Australia-born centre Sam Johnson as one to watch.

He said: "It's been a few months in coming for Sam. He was going to be in our squad for the November Tests then got injured the weekend before we came into camp.

"He's been in Scotland for over three years now, worked his way into the Glasgow team and then became one of their best players.

"His parents are flying over from Australia but he's settled in Scotland and feels very much part of our country. I do think he's ready for this next step up.

"You need a body of work behind you, you need to perform at the highest level for your club, which is the Champions Cup. Two seasons ago he played some excellent games for Glasgow in that competition and was voted the players' player of the season.

"He's also played well this year when he's had those opportunities."

'There is belief going into it because we know what our players are capable of and what they've done in the past. But it will be an incredibly tough tournament.'
Gregor Townsend

Johnson could earn his first cap against Italy and would come up against a side that wants to make amends for defeat in Rome last year when they led at the break only for Scotland to come back and grab a last-gasp penalty to win 29-27.

Italy centre Michele Campagnaro said: "We have confidence in our game and we know what we want to bring on the field on Saturday.

"It will certainly be tough, Scotland will start at home and will want to demonstrate immediately what they can do in the tournament.

"For our part there is certainly the desire to redeem a defeat that was difficult to digest at the end of last season's championship.

"It came at the end of the game and has left us with a sense of bitterness.

"But on the other hand, we must remember that if we want to we can impose our style on Scotland and get a result against them this time."

Townsend knows his side won't have it easy and that real success will have to be earned in every game this year.

He said: "The Six Nations is over five games. There is belief going into it because we know what our players are capable of and what they've done in the past.

"But it will be an incredibly tough tournament.

"We'll have to be as accurate as possible from the opening game and carry any momentum we get in that. But this will be as tough a game as we'll face."

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