THERE isn’t a natural halfway point in the Six Nations championship. After two matches it feels as though you have only started and after three it’s nearly over.

And that’s exactly where we find ourselves after yesterday’s loss in Paris.

With all thoughts of a Grand Slam and a Triple Crown firmly binned after losing to Ireland, the result in France only reiterated two well-known facts.

First, Scotland don’t travel well.

And secondly, exciting and attractive as we can be, we are still a bit off being serious contenders.

Indeed, as it stands, we will need to produce two epic performances just to match our achievements of 12 months ago.

And yet it had all started so well for Scotland. The pre-event belief, confidence and, dare I say, hype, was seemingly well-founded as we ran rings around the Italians at Murrayfield on that opening Saturday.

Potential world beaters, 33-3 to the good, and what a great win this would have been – had the match lasted just 70 minutes.

But, in an instant, after Simon Berghan was binned for dragging down a maul, so Scotland collapsed in similar fashion, shelling 17 points to an Italian team that we were always going to beat, the only question being by how many.

In the end, the 13-point winning margin still gained a bonus point. However, seldom have so many folk traipsed out of Murrayfield having seen a Scotland side so rampant, including a hat-trick of tries for Blair Kinghorn, yet feeling so flat.

"The last 15 minutes was disappointing,” said Gregor Townsend afterwards. ”Obviously the yellow card had a bearing on that and there are a few areas to work on but the first 60 minutes were very pleasing."

That hour of dominance has, nevertheless, been largely forgotten about. In contrast, those final 10 minutes were, unfortunately, a shape of things to come against the Irish.

They were always going to be a handful. You don’t become the second-ranked team in world rugby without knowing how to beat good opposition. And the Irish had us worked out early on.

They knew we would roll around the side from rucks, and made sure they knocked us backwards right there, making it difficult to get any forward motion.

They also knew we expected them to advance in a similar fashion, except they didn’t. Hence Johnny Sexton’s cut inside, back towards the crowded breakdown zone, and his waited and weighted pass to the defence-piercing Jacob Stockdale, who scored under the posts. This gave the Irish breathing space at 12-3 up after less than a quarter of the game gone, the same nine-point margin Ireland would eventually win by.

Remember as well, we play them first up in Japan this autumn. Here’s hoping we learned from our mistakes, and their ingenuity.

As for yesterday, better teams have gone to the French capital and been steamrollered. This looked like a second XV on paper, the eventual outcome as France clocked up a bonus point was no shock.

International rugby is a tough old business, the brutality of the Test Match game putting demands on players as never seen previously. Injuries, therefore, have to be taken as part and parcel of that environment.

But, when it has come to misfortune in this year's campaign, if it wasn’t for bad luck you get the feeling Gregor Townsend and his coaching staff wouldn’t have any kind of luck at all.

In the lead-up to the France game, Finn Russell joined Stuart Hogg on the casualty list, the treatment table already crowded with Hamish Watson, Huw Jones, Ryan Wilson and Willem Nel, ruled out through various ailments.

Yes, you could look on the positive side by saying such absentees frees up spaces for other to play on the biggest stage.

We’ve heard so much about having strength in depth like at no other time. But Townsend would surely have wanted to have been equipped with all his key component parts rather than able replacements.

That said, it has given him – in what is, let’s not forget, a World Cup year – the chance to see some of the fringe talent emerge.

Blair Kinghorn, whether as a winger or full-back, has had an outstanding season with Edinburgh thus far, and has replicated parts of that during this Championship. Meanwhile, the void left by Hamish Watson at openside has been filled by another city colleague, Jamie Ritchie, whose performances should see him a starter in coming months.

Warriors centre Sam Johnson, too, looked the part in spells, a foil and partner for Huw Jones, the Scotstoun duet appearing the ideal five-eighths combination, until Jones was sidelined. Yesterday, though, Nick Grigg was arguably just ahead.

Against France, given the circumstances and history, the eventual loss was entirely expected.

Some will be thinking the same ahead of Wales and England, away, where we haven’t won since 1983. Difficult to make a case against such predictions, even with a full compliment.