Losing your first match in the RBS 6 Nations is enough to put anyone on a downer, but in Paris we witnessed a Scottish performance which showed many positive signs, despite the loss.
This was a tough test and while the French won the game by seven points, it was Scotland who were the only side to cross the line for a try.
The high penalty count was frustrating – 12 in all and two inside the first three minutes – and to be fair, this is something which has always been a concern for us. But defensively, Scotland were brilliant. I will be very surprised if any of the other teams this season will stop the French from scoring a try in a match, and they will take great heart from that.
Before the game, much was said about the five wins in seven games under Vern Cotter, but this was the first real test with something tangible at the end of it, and they passed that test with a competitive display which will surely see them produce victories later in the campaign, starting this Sunday against Wales.
Stuart Hogg bounced back to form following injury and had a good game, always a threat to the French and nearly making it to the line for a score on 26 minutes following a brilliant dummy and break.
He certainly enjoys playing with this set of backs and his understanding of the play of Greig Laidlaw at scrum half (and vice versa) is always interesting to watch as the Jed and Hawick guys work so well together. We have seen it in other games and it’s always good to see them combining to create mischief for the opposition.
Laidlaw again had a fine game for Scotland, leading from the front and showing that the responsibilities as captain enhance his play and, to be honest, I see no reason why he should be relieved of these duties when Grant Gilchrist returns to action.
Former Selkirk player Alex Dunbar looks very comfortable in a Scotland jersey and looks set to have a long run wearing the number 12. He’s an asset for the Scots and we have a backline that can score tries and offer a real attacking threat.
Ross Ford is playing some of the best rugby of his career at the moment, and this is confirmed by the statistics. He will be a certainty to start in the World Cup and on this form I would tip him to reach 100 caps barring any injuries.
The other Borderer involved, Geoff Cross, came on and did a fine job and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he gets at least one start in the 6 Nations, and that could come this weekend.