Jamie Ritchie insists that he and his Scotland team-mates were not offended by all the pre-match chat focussing on what France needed to do to win the Six Nations title on Friday night, they just took it on board and used it as motivation for the performance they ultimately produced when securing a historic first win in Paris this millennium. 

The lion’s share of the pre-match hype in the lead-up to the game revolved around France having to score four tries and win by 21 points or more in order to pip Wales to the post, and it seemed at times like the extent of Scotland’s aspirations should be damage limitation. However, Ritchie and his team-mates took a different view to produce a performance which fizzed with courage and intelligence, to ultimately secure a well-deserved win for the visitors. 

“I wouldn’t say it frustrated us – I think it fuelled us,” said the all-action flanker, who was – as usual – at the heart of the action during Friday’s remarkable 27-23 victory. “Obviously they were talking about winning by 20 points, but we were confident going into the game, and whenever someone starts talking about beating you by 20 points, it’s fuel to the fire. It wasn’t upsetting – it was good for us – it was a motivator.” 

In fairness to those who wrote Scotland off, historical precedent was not on their side. Up until last October, Scotland hadn’t beaten any Six Nations team apart from minnows Italy on the road since getting the better of Ireland at Croke Park back in 2010. Now they have won their last three away matches – against Wales, England and France – although whether they can be as successful when fans return to stadiums, which will hopefully be next season, remains to be seen. 

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“It’s a hard one to pinpoint, but we’ve been building for a while now, and we’ve taken a huge amount of confidence from how we’ve been playing across the whole tournament,” said Ritchie, when asked about how Scotland have transformed themselves from wimps to warriors on the road. 

“Personally, I would say the only game this year where we were the worst team was the Ireland game. Every other game we’ve played in this Six Nations, we’ve been the better team. So, in any game we go into, we know that if we turn up, we’ve got an opportunity to win, whether that be at home or away. Now it is about putting ourselves in a position to be at the top end of that table.  

“If the Wales game this year goes the other way, we win the tournament,” he continued. “Even when we’ve not played at our best, like against Ireland, we were still in touching distance come the end. For us, the next level is grinding out wins in those games where we’re not at our best and putting together performances week after week.

“There is a lot to come from this group, we’re pretty young. The next level we’re yet to see, but we’re going in the right direction, definitely.” 

It is hard to escape the feeling that this Six Nations was an opportunity which got away. Scotland did the really hard bit by winning in London and Paris but came up short with the slightly easier bit of beating Wales and Ireland at home, meaning they ended up fourth in the table. 

“You can talk about what ifs, but it’s gone,” concluded Ritchie. “We’ve finished on a high and that’s what we need to build on. We had some outstanding performances throughout the tournament and those are the things we’ll be taking on into the next set of Test matches, whenever they may be.”