Gregor Townsend insisted that Scotland produced their best performance yet in this Six Nations championship, despite slumping to their first defeat of the campaign against France.

He added that his team will use this game as a launchpad ahead of taking on Ireland – the top ranked team in the world – at Murrayfield in a fortnight. A win for Scotland will secure a first Triple Crown since 1990 and keep alive their chances of a first championship win since 1999.

“I was very pleased with the performance, it was our best of the Championship so far,” said Townsend. “I’m disappointed with the result but proud of how the players played, and proud of how they controlled the situation, the emotions and how they adapted to being a man down and how much belief they had in each other. 

“I’m disappointed we didn’t take the two or three opportunities which would have led to us winning the game. But I feel we have improved from our previous games, there will be so much which will come out of this game for us.

“There will be things we have to do better but there will be belief in how we played against one of the best teams in the world at their home stadium. We will need that belief and we will need that improvement for our next game. We will be hugely motivated to play for a trophy back home against Ireland.

“The championship is what everyone is gunning towards, you are going to have to win four or five games to win the championship, but if you are in the mix for a Triple Crown then that’s something different. We’ve not been in that mix for a while.

“We have not won one since 1990 so it will be a motivator, but the big motivator is to still be in this championship come the final weekend. 

“Ireland are the best team in the world, and we have not played them at home for a while in front of a crowd so it will be good to have that. 

“A lot of the game last time against them we played well but our discipline let us down. If you give away penalties against them then they are very efficient about what they do around the opposition 22. So, our discipline will need to be very good, and I thought it was very good today. We won a lot of penalties against France and I thought we could get a yellow card as well as it was penalty after penalty. Maybe just one more would have changed things a lot if we were playing against 13 men.”

Townsend also expressed sympathy for Grant Gilchrist after the second row was red-carded for a high tackle on Anthony Jelonch after just six minutes – but explained that he had no complaints about the decision.

“If you tackle in the head area then you are looking straight away at a red,” he said.

“Were there any mitigating circumstances? Was there a dip or chest first … but no. It wasn’t his intention, he was second man in the tackle and it’s very rare for us to have high tackles or any yellow or red cards, so Grant will have to learn from that as second man in there.

“If he’s upright then he can’t go in with his shoulder, he’s just got to tackle lower.”
Townsend admitted that he felt unusually optimistic after the match given that his team had lost their unbeaten record in this Six Nations campaign, perhaps because he believes a lot of the things that went wrong can be easy fixes.

“We didn’t defend well enough around the ruck area for their first try,” he said. “Then we took a little while to get back into it when we went a man down, and then there was an interception. 

“During that period, especially when we got ourselves back into it, we had a lot of the game. We had the ball over the line twice, it was held up once and bounced over the line, and there was another where France were penalised for offside and we didn’t score in the corner.

“It would have been good to get in at half time and been closer on the scoreboard but the conversation at half time was that we were here to win and this is how we are going to do it.

“I felt the momentum was all with us in the second half and it’s just a pity that on a couple of occasions we didn’t build on the fact we got to four points behind and didn’t really seal the deal.