Close finishes abounded in the men’s Guinness Six Nations, with Scotland involved in the best of them, and having survived that late conversion attempt on Saturday against Wales, it looks like Scotland’s women are carrying on the trend. Like our men, they are also history-makers.

That’s the trouble with making rugby history in the midst of the Guinness Six Nations. No sooner do you do it than you have to go out and face opponents who are going to do their level best to make everyone forget you are history makers.

It has now happened with both our men’s and women’s teams, coincidentally by both winning their first match of the 2024 tournament against Wales. That narrow defeat of Wales in Cardiff by the men was immediately followed by that controversial loss to France at Murrayfield, and now our women are facing a similar scenario having beaten Wales away and now facing France at home. Let’s just hope for a different result for our women, hoping that luck and dodgy officiating calls go their way.

The women’s team made history by establishing their longest-ever run of victories at seven, and they are now at their highest position ever in the World Rugby Rankings. They jumped up a respectable two places from eighth to sixth, and relegated Wales from sixth to eighth. That improved ranking is the true measure of the improvement they have made over the last year – at this time in 2023 they were ranked tenth.

Now they face the team that is officially ranked third in the world behind England and New Zealand who started their championship within a comfortable win over Ireland orchestrated by their brilliant scrum-half Pauline Bourdon Sansus who scored the opening try. 

France are a very powerful side, and proved it in the last World Cup held in 2022 after being postponed for a year by Covid, losing only in the semi-final by the odd point in 49 to New Zealand on the latter’s home territory.

Scotland crumpled against France in Vannes in last year’s tournament, going down 0-55 and losing nine unanswered tries as the French, frankly, ran riot. But at that time Scotland were on a long run of poor form and that defeat was their 12th loss in a row in competitive fixtures. It was a strange performance by the Scots who actually dominated play for much of the first half yet could not make their possession count and still managed to lose three tries in that first 40 minutes.

France, on the other hand, came roaring out for the second half and blitzed Scotland with excellent ruthless finishing before going on to finish a clear second in the championship, losing only to England at Twickenham before that world record crowd.  

Bryan Easson got Scotland back on track last year, and though I think he will continue to improve Scotland’s women to the stage where they can genuinely and consistently challenge the giants of the world game, I just think it may have come too early to beat France this weekend.  

This is a different Scotland side, however, and I would not be surprised if a big upset took place. The pack should be able to contest for possession from the outset, allowing our backs to attack as they most certainly can. I thought stand-off Helen Nelson had an outstanding game against Wales and indeed she has been nominated for player of the round – at the time of writing I don’t know who has won but I note that Pauline Bourdon Sansus was also correctly nominated. 

That could well be the midfield tussle which decides the outcome at the Hive Stadium on Saturday, and I think Nelson in fine form could hold the key to victory.  It will be close, however, but we are getting used to that with Scotland, men and women.

Meanwhile the two professional men’s sides had contrasting fortunes at the weekend, and I thought Glasgow Warriors showed one of the qualities all championship winners need – the ability to notch a win while not playing your best. Even a narrow victory is still a win and puts points on the board and Warriors got their win over Cardiff in atrocious conditions while missing numerous key players.

Now our two South Africans in charge of Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby, Franco Smith and Sean Everitt respectively, must hope to put one over their countrymen in future weeks, starting with Everitt’s men going up against Sharks. It’s a tasty encounter, not least because Sharks sacked Everitt, while Smith’s Warriors will soon have to go to South Africa and confirm themselves as contenders for the URC Championship.

Both men will have their internationalists back, though both are still with injury-hit squads. I remain optimistic, however, that Edinburgh and the Warriors will finish the season on a high. We can but hope.