A good day at the office got even better for Gregor Townsend immediately after the full-time whistle of yesterday’s record win over Italy at Murrayfield with a deal finally been struck to allow his English-based players to be released for Friday’s clash against France in Paris.

There was growing concern that players such as captain Stuart Hogg, scrum-half Scott Steele and second-row Sam Skinner would not be available for Scotland’s final match of the championship – which was postponed last month due to a Covid outbreak in the French squad – because it is being played outside the international window.

However, a compensation agreement has been reached with the clubs meaning the Scots will travel to Paris with all their fit players in the selection mix.

“I’ve just been told the negotiations are coming to an end and there’s going to be a positive outcome which is great to hear,” said Townsend, before Six Nations Rugby confirmed it in a statement later last night. “Thanks to the parties involved – Scottish Rugby, the Six Nations and the PRL – we can get to this situation where we’ll have a strong squad, as strong as we can have, going to Paris, which is a really important game for us and the tournament. It shows we can work together and find a solution. I’m sure there was compromises and understanding from both parties. I’m sure there’s been some financial contributions as well. But it’s great we can have our players for this massive game next week.”

Townsend added that he has no new injury concerns and was hopeful about the prospects of Finn Russell (concussion) and Jonny Gray (shoulder injury) coming back into the frame. Now his focus is on making sure he balances the need to fine tune his team for a massive challenge on Friday, with keeping his match-day 23 as fresh as possible for what will be the team’s third game inside 12 days.

“We just need to make sure that in this six-day turnaround, we do our best to recover and get those one or two training sessions we’ll have this week at a real high quality,” he added. “The goal is to go into the France game with confidence in each other as team-mates but also with as fresh a squad as possible.

“When you play Test matches there are going to be some sore bodies over the next couple of days, but we did manage our squad today by giving other players the opportunity to start and by managing game time.”

It was Scotland’s biggest win in the championship, and while that must be judged in the context of the opposition being very callow and running on fumes after four heavy defeats in this campaign, Townsend said there was no such thing as an easy game at international level. With Hogg playing out of position at stand-off, plus Steele and Dave Cherry making their first international starts in the crucial scrum-half and hookers slots, respectively, the coach was understandably happy with how things panned out.

“We always approach these games knowing Italy are a very tough team to break down, and we saw with them scoring that first try that it was going to be a real challenge,” he said. “It’s credit to the players that they stuck with what they wanted to go out and do.

“You need scoreboard pressure against Italy – if they’re ahead at half time then they get confident – but if you put pressure on them by getting ahead, they have to try other things. With the attack we had, and the defence that forced penalties, we made it much tougher for them.”

It was a gratifying experience for Cherry, the 30-year-old hooker who spent several seasons playing lower league rugby in England and France, before getting his big

break by being signed by his hometown club of Edinburgh in 2018. After two seasons as third choice, he has enjoyed a meteoric rise since the end of lockdown, culminating in two tries yesterday.

“I just try to live in every moment and do the job to the best of my ability and it wasn’t too bad today,’ he said. “Scoring from the back of a maul, it’s really the guys at the front of the maul who do all the hard work and I just have to dot it down.

“But it was a good team performance – we bounced back from a poor display last week – so, on the whole, we’re really happy. We got the reaction we were looking for. This puts things right, but we know next week will be an even bigger challenge.”