IF Scotland mount a successful Six Nations campaign, then there will be those who suggest that we should party like it’s 1999. That’s when the Scots last triumphed in this competition, although back then it was still just the Five Nations – which technically means we are still defending champions. Except 20 years ago, Scotland didn’t get to celebrate like it was 1999. Actually, they didn’t get to celebrate at all.

There was no Triple Crown or Grand Slam for Scotland, just the title itself, and even rejoicing that achievement was delayed and owed much to Wales. Still, it didn’t stop thousands turning up at Murrayfield to see the trophy presentation, although as skipper Gary Armstrong recalls, Monday night isn’t really a night for partying.

“It was just the way it worked out. We had our last game in Paris on the Saturday, and the only way we were going to win the title was if Wales beat England – in England, even though it was a home game for the Welsh.

“They were still finishing off the Millennium Stadium, so Wembley was where Wales played their home matches, including the one against England. I checked on how things were going, but England looked to have won it. I checked again and they were still playing, in injury time.

“Wales had a line-out, which they won. I remember Scott Quinnell in open field making a run, but then Scott Gibbs came crashing through the line, running a great angle before dancing and skipping around a couple of would-be tacklers to score.

“All of Wales went mad – I went mad, only because Gibbsy decided to celebrate before he touched down. It still needed Jenks [Neil Jenkins] to convert for the win, but that was never in doubt. And so we were champions.”

The drama of that final day for Gary somewhat clouded the effort Scotland had put in over the piece.

“The only reason we were in a position to benefit – should the Welsh upset England – was because of how we’d performed in our games. I’ll be honest, I don’t think too many could have begrudged us the title, because for me we’d played by far the best rugby in the tournament. Just look at our try count, right from the start.”

And, when the former Jed and Newcastle Falcons No9 says from the start, it was exactly that, Scotland opening up their championship with the quickest try in international rugby.

“It was a pre-planned ploy. I’d been experimenting with kick-offs as well, just to mix things up, but we lined the forwards up on the right, then Duncan Hodge kicked left. What made it work was that no-one broke rank, so it made it look as if the kick was going to the forwards.

“Instead it went left, and John Leslie just plucked the ball out the air and ran in for the score. Ten seconds. That was all it took. The only thing I had touched on the pitch were the hands of the dignitaries before the game.

“Even after that start though, we were still down at half time, but second half we ran away with another three tries.”

Scotland then lost at Twickenham. “24-21 wasn’t it?” Armstrong enquired, like someone who knew exactly what the score was as the disappointment of that day still rankles. “We should have won, probably. By then Toony [Gregor Townsend] was at 10, and just added to the pace we had amongst the back. Duncan [Hodge] was a good controller of the ball and the game, but Gregor was electric when he decided to go. Knowing where he was going was always the difficult bit,” Armstrong says. “But fortunately we had John Leslie and Alan Tait at centre, and they were great readers of the game and quick on the uptake. We scored another three tries in London, then four against Ireland,” he recalled, although the 30-13 scoreline eluded him.

While Armstrong says that Five Nations success does feel like 20 years ago, the former Lion says the now-famous Spring afternoon in Paris still feels like yesterday.

“It was a beautiful day, sunny, dry, not a breath. That usually meant one thing; that France would run like a pack of hounds and tear in to you. And they did. The French ran everything. The only thing was we were more French than they were that day. It was just daft, like an exhibition game.

“Toony, Leslie and Taity ran riot. It was like a Barbarians game, 55 points scored in the first half, we got five tries, France three. Crazy.

"I don’t think they’d get away playing that way today, seeing how structured things have become. Actually, the exception might be Scotland now – how Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Huw Jones and Adam Hastings can play off the cuff stuff, that’s how Gregor played. That was his natural game, and when it came off it was great to watch, although a wee bit tiring chasing folk all over the pitch.”

The away games against France and England were never easy, and Armstrong reckons they are still the toughest on the calendar. However, he is confident that Scotland can build on recent success, despite missing key personnel.

“People talk about how many injuries we have just now in the lead up to the Six Nations, but for me that just gives others an opportunity. We lost Basil [Bryan Redpath] the week before the tournament with an ankle injury, which is why I played and led the team. We lost Doddie Weir after just 40 minutes against Wales, and Tom Smith broke his leg against Ireland. Actually, maybe losing them was the reason we won,” Armstrong laughed.

“But the guys who came in did the job. We hear a lot about the depth we’ve got now – well now is our chance for others to step up.”