IT took two days for Grant Gilchrist to come to terms with the “genuine mistake” that saw him sent off while playing for Scotland against France and cost him two weeks on the sidelines.

The Edinburgh lock was, and remains, contrite about the slightly too high tackle that saw him suspended for his team’s remaining games in the Championship, and admitted in the subsequent disciplinary hearing that he had deserved a red card.

But, after a previously unblemished record stretching back some 250 games, the 32-year-old was able to refrain from beating himself up too much about what had happened. There was no malice aforethought. No crime of passion. He had simply made a minor error, and paid a weighty price.

Speaking for the first time about that incident early in the first half of his team’s 32-21 defeat in the Stade de France, Gilchrist suggested that, the way the game is now refereed, there can be a minuscule difference between an excellent tackle and a red-card offence. But, while there are those who would outlaw tackling below the waist in a bid to cut out the head contact that was the reason for his dismissal, he believes that genuine attempts to seize the ball are a vital part of the game.

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“There is an inch between a good tackle and a red card these days,” Gilchrist said of the tackle on Anthony Jelonch that led to his sending off. “I got my timing wrong and I hold my hands up for that. Things happen in a split second. Hopefully it was clear at the time I wasn’t trying to cause any type of harm to the player. It is a similar tackle I made thousands of times and it just shows you the timing of it: if things change just in front of you, you end up with a red card.”

Gilchrist’s error arose, at least in part, from the fact that both he and Matt Fagerson – who got to Jelonch just before him – went in high. He believes that the ideal is for the first defender to tackle low and for the second to then target the ball.

“Below the ball is the sensible thing for the primary tackler, but the secondary arriving player should be able to make a play for the ball,” he said. “That is a huge part of how teams are defending, holding players up, looking for rips and drives.

“You could tackle hard through the ball and there are no issues from me about lowering it a bit. You can still keep the physicality of the game that everybody wants.”

The incident was one of the big “What if?” moments of the Championship for a Scotland side who had won their first two games. They were already behind when Gilchrist saw red, but if he had stayed on, and French prop Mohamed Haouas was still sent off minutes later, might their comeback have been decisive?

Supporters may agonise about such hypothetical matters for some time, but Gilchrist was quickly able to put the issue behind him and get on with real life.

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“It was gutting,” he continued. “If I’m going to make a slight mistake, seven minutes into a Test match at the Stade de France after having won the first two games of the Six Nations would not have been the moment I would have chosen.

“But this is life. I have perspective on life and get back home to my family and kids and wife and I can rationalise things. I knew it was a mistake and nothing caused by reckless behaviour or going out there to let my team-mates down. I just got the timing wrong. At the time it was hard to take, but in a couple of days I realised, ‘What can I do?’.”

Gilchrist’s original ban was for three matches, but a completion of a World Rugby “tackle course” saw him allowed back a week earlier. His return did not go as well as hoped, when Edinburgh lost in Connacht, but the run-out in Galway may just stand him in good stead when his team take on Leicester on Friday in the last 16 of the Champions Cup.