TYPICALLY, Gregor Townsend selected his words with care when it came to the question of his satisfaction or otherwise with his maiden Six Nations campaign as Scotland coach.

Having racked up three championship wins for the second successive year, one of them a historic triumph against England, it ended with the Scots sitting third in the table. On the other hand, as evidenced by the setbacks in Cardiff, Dublin and a fraught hour in Rome, winning away from home in this competition clearly remains a challenge.

“I’m somewhat satisfied,” said Townsend. “There will always be things to improve.

“The England performance was a great performance and a great win because of what it meant for the country,” he added. “but having watched it a few times I know we could have been better - and that was probably our best performance.

“We demand a lot of our players. We know they can deliver and it is about doing that over 80 minutes and also away from home against different opposition. That’s the challenge we have.”

At least there is some context when it comes to Scotland’s away day misadventures. The fifteen matches in this year’s Championships furnished only four away wins.

“This is a brilliant championship,” said Townsend. “The standard of rugby has gone up over the past few years.

“It is very hard to win away from home. Remember Italy had a try disallowed and could have been two points behind England after 55 minutes, so they were in that game as well,” he added.

“So we are pleased we won on Saturday. Three wins is a big achievement. But we’re not pleased with how we played against Wales and with not taking chances against Ireland or our first half performance against Italy.

“Nothing’s ever perfect and we understand there will be times when we don’t play as well and we have to find a way to get better, find a way to win. That’s what we did against Italy.”

One thing Townsend is unambiguous about is the pleasure and honour he has derived from having this job, the 44-year-old having justified the faith shown in him when stepping up from Glasgow Warriors to replace Vern Cotter after last year’s championship.

“I’ve loved it,” said Townsend. “I loved the summer experience, playing away in new places. The atmosphere at Murrayfield in our home games.

“When we got the bus to the game on Saturday, we stopped at traffic lights and were right in the middle of the Doddie Gump march [in aid of the Doddie Weir foundation’s charity efforts for Motor Neurone Disease], where there looked to be 10,000 supporters. It’s a brilliant environment to be in.

“We feel very privileged to be in the roles we are in as coaches,” he added. “But we know a lot of work has to go in over the next 18 months - the next 12 months to have a better championship and then 18 months to have a good World Cup.”

As much as Scotland crave a maiden Six Nations title for its own sake - it is only natural if thoughts are turning ever more towards that 2019 showpiece in Japan and a pool which holds the daunting prospect of a re-match with Grand Slam champions Ireland and an intriguing meeting with the host nation.

With one eye on that showpiece, the next challenge is keeping the momentum going in the three months before Scotland’s next match. That comes in Canada in June 8, the first leg of a tour which also includes USA and Argentina.

The coach has a lot to weigh up when it comes to that selection too, deciding how much fresh blood it is prudent to inject into the squad and whether those involved in the Lions tour last summer might benefit from a break, whether they want it or not.

“The summer tour will be one that we will look at as a way to keep improving, but also to introduce new players to the rugby we aspire to play, players who could have a chance of making the World Cup squad in a year’s time,” said Townsend.

“We will see what the next two months brings,” he added. “We are conscious we had two or three guys on the Lions tour, so it would be a long season to go from that to a summer tour at the end of it. Some players might need some medical care at the end of the season, or surgery, so they can have a full season afterwards.

“But we are also conscious of the momentum we want to carry on. We want to make sure we have a strong squad to take on Canada, the USA and, particularly, Argentina in the third game.

“It will be a balance. Not everyone out there on Saturday will go on tour.

“We are not going to take more than 30 players to Argentina. The squad will be bigger t go to Canada and America and then the numbers will drop from high 30s to high 20s, which allows the players to have one more week of pre-season with their clubs.”

Before then, of course, the immediate imperative to get better every day simply bounces back to each individual player and their clubs. “Fortunately, most of our players will be involved in big games,” says Townsend. “Glasgow are guaranteed a PRO14 semi final, possibly a home semi, and Edinburgh are in the European 1/4 finals and look more and more likely to get a playoff place. That’s great. It means the players we have form Edinburgh and Glasgow will be playing in big games.”