GREGOR TOWNSEND was understandably and justifiably delighted with Scotland’s victory over France in Paris last [Friday] night, but believes that his side is only just getting started.
The coach admitted that it was a cause of frustration that Scotland only managed to finish fourth in this year’s Six Nations table, despite securing a first win away to England in 38 years, a first win away to France in 22 years, and a record win in the competition over Italy at Murrayfield for good measure, during the last seven weeks.
“I’m so proud of the team – they showed courage, togetherness and skill to win, so a great end to a really promising season for us,” he said. “It took a lot of knocking on the door and that’s a credit to France – but the players found a way and I’m so happy for them.
“They put a lot of effort into this championship, and even though we finished fourth, it feels like one of our best ever seasons with some of the victories we’ve had this year, and the performance we had tonight especially.
“That’s now been the last two years we’ve been competitive in every game – we’ve won six of our last ten Six Nations games and the other four we’ve been within a score.
“So, the players will take confidence form that and we’ve grown a lot this campaign – now we just have to grow further over the next few years.”
Townsend conceded that his delight at beating France in Paris, as well as England in London, was tempered by a sense of frustration at letting two eminently winnable home games slip through the teams’ collective fingers.
“We’ve bookended the championship with two excellent performances and two excellent wins,” he said. “Our set-piece and defence against England and France has shown that we can compete agains the best teams in the world.
“Against Wales we played well but moments in the game didn’t go our way, while Ireland was a disappointment because we didn’t play well but it was still 24-all with a few minutes to go so it shows that this team will stay in the fight in each game we play, and that’s encouraging. You want to be consistent, you want to be tough to beat, and this team has shown that.
“You also want to be winning titles so there is a disappointment that we haven’t finished higher than fourth, and I still can’t believe that these last few years we’ve had three wins and two losing bonus points and finished fourth both times, because this team deserves more and I think it is very rare to not finish higher with these performances.
“But we’ll take those wins, especially the two big ones against France and England, and they’ll help us in future years.”
Meanwhile, Scotland captain Stuart Hogg dedicated the France win to the whole Scotland squad, and especially those who were not able to be part of this week’s match because of either injury or the deal which meant only five English-based players were released.
“This was a squad effort throughout the whole campaign and things didn’t go the way we would have liked in terms of squad selection heading into this game and our players sitting at home watching, this win is for them as much as it is for us,” he said.
“Results at times have been outstanding, performance have been very, very good as well, so we’re probably going to be kicking ourselves in the foot after the couple of losses we had,” he added. “We’re not going to get too carried away, we’re going to enjoy this moment and start build toward something memorable.”