AFTER Scotland’s Grand Slam triumphs of 1984 and 1990, the received wisdom was that the Lions tours of the previous years had been vital contributory factors. It was not so much the fact of having played against the All Blacks and Wallabies respectively, but that of having played alongside so many English, Irish and Welsh team-mates, that made the difference for those Scots who had been selected.

Any sense of being inferior to those Five Nations opponents, so the argument went, vanished during the tour. You were training with them every day, and playing alongside them once or twice a week, and so had first-hand evidence that you were every bit as good as they were. When you played against those players six months later, their mystique had vanished. You knew you could beat them, and you did.

Each Lions touring party contained only a minority of Scots, of course, with the likes of Roger Baird and Iain Paxton going to New Zealand, and Gary Armstrong and the Hastings brothers among those who went to Australia. But no matter. There were enough of them to have a profound influence on the national squad back home.

Which brings us to the Champions Cup final, to be played on October 17 between Exeter Chiefs and Racing 92. Whoever wins the match at Ashton Gate in Bristol,

at least one Scot will get his hands on the trophy: Finn Russell for Racing, or Stuart Hogg, Jonny Gray, Sam Skinner and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne for Exeter.

For any of those players, becoming European champions will be the biggest achievement of their careers. They have won big games before at both club and Test level, but they have not reached the pinnacle of major silverware. Should they do so, it can surely only inspire them to reach greater heights individually and perhaps inspire their national team-mates, too, when they meet up a couple of days later to begin preparing for the six autumn internationals.

Hidalgo-Clyne is still some way down the pecking order at scrum-half, but the others should be selected by Gregor Townsend, including Russell, who would appear to have ironed out his differences with the head coach and sparked the match-winning move for Racing against defending champions Saracens in the semi-final.

Granted, this trickle-down effect of self-belief is not inevitable. And even if a whole team is inspired to raise their game, there is no guarantee they will become better than the opposition. But at a time when both Scottish professional teams are still struggling to make an impact in Europe, it can only be useful to have a few Scots who know what it takes to win a major trophy.

This is perhaps especially relevant in the wake of two more play-off defeats by Edinburgh, in the PRO14 and the Challenge Cup. Those defeats to Ulster and Bordeaux made it five knock-out losses in a row for Richard Cockerill’s team, who showed in both matches they had the ability to win but lacked the self-belief to carry it off.

Cockerill insists before every big game that his team’s opponents have to be considered the favourites, something designed to reduce the pressure on his own players. It is an understandable ploy, but it also speaks to the inferiority complex that many of his players appear to have. After all, what makes a great player other than the ability to thrive under pressure? When you know what it takes to win trophies, you don’t worry about external expectations, you just go out there and win another one.

The Champions Cup and a Lions tour are two very different beasts, but the principle is the same. When you line up alongside the best players the continent has to offer, you know you are as good as them. When you subsequently face up to them in the Nations Cup or Six Nations, that lesson will stand you in good stead.