GREGOR Townsend, the Scotland head coach, praised the improvements in defence which laid the groundwork for yesterday’s 17-14 win against France. Playing against opponents who had put five tries and 32 points on them in Nice only seven days ago, the Scottish try line was breached twice more yesterday. However, both scores came directly from Scottish handling errors and the 14 points was the fewest Scotland have conceded in any match since November 2018. The head coach felt his team had rediscovered something of themselves out there.

“Performance-wise, I wouldn’t know what to rank it,” said Townsend. “I felt in the first 20 minutes we were on our game and that wasn’t getting shown on the scoreboard because a couple of times France scored off our possession. But I just felt that with the tackles, the speed of ball we were getting and where we were attacking France, it looked like US out there.

“It wasn’t the perfect performance – clearly not – but what I found really satisfying was how the players found a way to win,” he added. “Against that early scoreboard, against a team that had beaten them comfortably a week ago, against multiple changes in rhythm with a lot of stoppages and the injuries, what the players did was excellent. But we know that our performance will have to improve a lot over the next few weeks.

“We said to the players at half-time that we’d already forced 15 turnovers through our defence, putting France’s offloading game under pressure and forcing errors,” said Townsend. “Our lineout defence was excellent – France did have a couple of lineouts in our 22 but our defence was very good. They tried a couple of innovative plays which put them on the front foot but we were able to get back and slow them down, which wasn’t the case last week.”

There were words of praise for Chris Harris, the Newcastle Falcons centre, whose second half try won the day. In a scenario where players may only get one chance to book their place on that plane, Harris probably took his. “I know when I look at the video that Chris will have done really well,” said Townsend. “It might not have been noticeable at the time but both him and Pete Horne are good workers off the ball. And it was great to see Chris call that ball off Greig today – it was an excellent pass and that try allowed the team to get confidence.”

Next up for the Scots is a trip to play Georgia in Tbilisi, a match which Townsend sees as a massive challenge for his team. He has hinted he will play his strongest line-up either in the away match against the Georgians, or next Friday’s home meeting some three days after his squad is announced. “The goal is to go to Georgia with a strong side and we’ll have to because going to Georgia will be one of the toughest challenges this team has faced,” he said. “This is a team wanting to get in the Six Nations, playing at home, the travel to get out there, 50,000 people behind them.”

Captain Greig Laidlaw who hit all three of his kicks at goal, said criticism in the wake of the mauling in Nice had stung. “With the jersey, the history and what goes with it, it is a given to be fired up,” said Laidlaw. “The boys were hurting from last week and we wanted to do well for them too.”