THE Grand Slam dream created by Scotland’s heroic opening weekend win over England at Twickenham soon crumbled into dust, but Gregor Townsend’s side still have the chance to finish their Six Nations campaign on a high next weekend by achieving a best-ever championship finish. 

All they have to do is beat France by six points or more in Paris on Friday night and match the number of bonus points their hosts pick up. It’s as simple as that. Meanwhile, France will finish the campaign as top dogs if they score four tries and win by more than 20 points.  

For context, Scotland haven’t won in Paris since 1999, so history is not on their side. And the bookies fancy France by 16 to 17 points. But Townsend reckons his team have got what it takes to cause an upset – and claims that he is unconcerned about this being their third match in 12 days.

“It’s going to be the same for France – they played on Saturday evening so will have a six-day turnaround as well,” he said. “We were in the same situation last week so we know the format – there will be a light training session on Monday, a day off on Tuesday, then we will have as much of a competitive session as possible with speed and with contact to get everyone primed for our game. 

“One positive around our preparation is that we don’t have to do too many meetings to preview France because we did that three weeks ago before our game was postponed due to Covid.  The players should know who our opposition are and what they will bring.  We’ll analyse their game against Wales and if we see them do anything differently, we’ll be able to share that within the squad.” 

Townsend gave a number of fringe players a chance to prove themselves against Italy on Saturday and says he is delighted with how that worked out, meaning that he now has options to refresh his squad or stick with those who are in form.

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“Scott Steele and Dave Cherry, on their first starts for their country, were both outstanding,” he said.   “You look for players to take their opportunities by working hard, by being confident, by connecting with others in the team, and they both did that. It was great to see them score tries and be part of a winning team on their first starts.  

 “Huw Jones also did well, and I thought the back-line all looked dangerous,” he added. “In fact, there were a few times I was urging the midfield to have more of a go themselves.   

“I think we were getting to the wide channels when maybe it could have been on to play through Italy, because when we did that we looked dangerous, and Huw was one of those players who looked the most dangerous.  

“We’re now going to have a situation where we’ve got more players to select from, more players with game experience, putting pressure on those who started those first three games.”