A YEAR on from the Rugby World Cup, Scotland are in such good form that it is easy to forget what a traumatic time they had in that tournament.

Falling flat in the opening game against Ireland put them on the back foot, and losing to Japan set them crashing out of the competition. Not only the fact of failing to qualify for the quarter-finals but the manner in which they did so cast serious doubts on the suitability of the coaching team, and key players including then-captain Stuart McInally and Jonny Gray needed extended breaks from the game afterwards.

Yet if the squad and coaches alike looked shell-shocked back then, they rapidly recovered their self-possession. As head coach, Gregor Townsend deserves much of the credit for the massive improvement that has seen Scotland win their last five matches, and assistants such as Pieter de Villiers have also played significant roles, but the players themselves have clearly become at once wiser and harder-headed after their sobering experience in Japan.

For Blair Kinghorn, the most important thing in the months that followed the World Cup was to face up to what had gone wrong rather than trying to blank it out as too painful to contemplate. Face up to it, and then work assiduously on putting it right.

“I don’t think you can necessarily just park it and move on,” the Edinburgh full-back said on Tuesday as the squad continued their preparations for Sunday’s Autumn Nations Cup match against France. “It was a great learning experience for a lot of people. For me, it was the longest camp that I’d been involved in - being away for so long, you learn a lot about how professional you need to be.

“As a squad, we obviously didn’t perform the way we wanted to, but to then have a really positive Six Nations on the back of that showed how much everyone wanted to improve. We’re still learning and improving, but five wins on the trot is good going so far.

“Even when you win, you still look at yourself pretty harshly, because we always know how much better we can be. It does make the mood in camp a lot better if there’s been a victory at the weekend. Players are happy and the coaches are happy.

“Even though we can get better, there’s a good vibe in the camp,” continued Kinghorn, who, with captain Stuart Hogg in firm possession of the No 15 jersey, will either be on the wing or the bench for Sunday’s Group B match. “There’s no impending sense of doom hanging over your head when you’ve got team meetings coming up. Everyone’s buzzing in training.

“Being on a winning run is good. I’ve been on the end of a couple of defeats in a row and it does get pretty dark sometimes - you start questioning yourself. But confidence is high just now and we’re looking forward to trying to get another victory against France at the weekend.”

The highlight of Scotland’s current streak was arguably the Six Nations win against the French themselves back in March, and the fact that the run has also included two victories over Italy as well as wins against Georgia and Wales has led some to suggest that the fixtures have fallen in the team’s favour. But Kinghorn, for one, is not about to accept that Scotland have had it easy: this year’s improvement, he is convinced, is real and lasting, as he and his colleagues have every intention of proving on Sunday.

“Winning five international games in a row is not a fluke. We’ve been playing good rugby, regardless of what people think of other teams. We know the challenge that France can bring, but we’re up for it. I'm more than confident that we’ll put in a performance that will justify a victory.

“We know that they’ve got great individual players so we’ll try and take their strengths away from them. We back our defensive system and we know our attack is good enough that if we just stick to our guns and play well then the penny will fall for us.”