Perhaps I am getting too much of a grinch, but all that talk about this latest tournament having been the best Six Nations yet is just too much hype and hoopla, and a load of old baloney, frankly.

 There were no fans in the stadia, therefore no atmosphere, and that clearly affected outcomes. In my opinion, therefore, it was a second class tourney, and only the genuine commitment of the players and some passages of excellent fiercely-contested play elevated most games above the status of training matches.   

To my mind Scotland were the most entertaining team, France were the best, Wales outperformed themselves massively – and got a lot of luck – while Ireland underperformed and England were dire. That’s been coming for the men in white, as Eddie Jones’s game plan has been rumbled: find a way around their big chaps’ charges and any decent side can now beat England.

For Scotland to beat England and France away was a remarkable achievement – the first time that has happened in either the Five or Six Nations since 1926. To lose to Wales by a single point and to Ireland by a single score was heartbreaking – just five points more over those two games and Scotland would have been champions.

Welsh winger Louis Rees-Zammit was the brightest new talent on show, but over the five matches Stuart Hogg was the best attacker. I loved commentator Andrew Cotter’s quip about “Hamish Watson doing Hamish Watson things” and indeed the Scottish flanker was the most consistent forward of the tournament. Thank goodness Antoine Dupont had his worst game against Scotland but the French scrum-half remains the best all-round player in the Northern Hemisphere. He and his colleagues showed something unusual on Friday night – the fear of defeat was written on their faces, and it affected them.                    

There’s been lot of fuss made about the red cards, but if you look at them all objectively, only Finn Russell’s sending off against France was debatable, though by the letter of the interpretation imposed by World Rugby he had to go. Where doubt about very foul play exists, referees must act to penalise the guilty player even if he clearly didn’t mean to harm an opponent.

Of one thing I am certain – Scotland have made progress. No great giant leaps forward, and indeed there were problems with lineouts, for example, yet you get the sense the current squad is gelling together and Gregor Townsend is now showing that he can vary the game plan.

Which is why I am saying that Scotland’s coaches and players should ignore the distraction that will be the British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa – I have it on good authority it will only be cancelled if the South African Government says so and they are very unlikely to do that. I think it is a huge risk for the tour to go ahead, but we must live with the authorities’ decision as we have been doing over the past year, and deal with the Lions nearer the time.

Instead even now all Scottish squad minds should be concentrated on the World Cup in France in 2023 when hopefully coronavirus will be under control and we can all actually pop over to watch the games. September 10, 2023, may seem a long way away – well at nearly 30 months it is  – but that day will see Scotland play their opening match against the world champions, South Africa, in the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille. Scotland’s aim should be simple -  to win that match.        

To beat the reigning holders of the William Webb Ellis Trophy is a tall order at any time, but the Springboks are not unbeatable. They are still ranked No 1 in the world despite not playing a test in 2020 and they also pulled out of the Rugby Championship due to Covid-19 concerns, but no squad can go so long without playing – by the time they meet the Lions it will be 20 months since they played a test together – without there being some effect on continuity at least. You can bet they will be rusty against the Lions, and a wee wager on the tourists might prove rewarding, but by the time the World Cup  comes around you can bet the Springboks will be very well prepared.

If Scotland can reach the heights that they sometimes achieved during the Six Nations, and if South Africa have an off day, the game could be won and that would be a huge advantage going deeper into the Pool to the final match against Ireland in the Stade de France on October 7.

It’s been great to beat England and France and shows the squad can travel, but the fullest concentration must be on building and developing the squad to prepare for the World Cup. That is how Scotland must be judged – on how we do in France in 2023, not on how we did in France in 2021.