Nostalgia: Gregor Townsend recalls being one of four Borderers in last Scottish rugby side to beat French in France back in 1999

Current head coach Gregor Townsend was one of four Borderers in the last Scotland side to beat France in Paris, back in April 1999, and he recalls it as a contender to be his favourite of the 82 games he played for his country between 1993 and 2003.

By Darin Hutson
Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 8:52 am
Scottish fly-half Gregor Townsend celebrating after scoring a try during the France-Scotland Five Nations rugby match on April 10, 1999, at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis (Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images)

“It was probably my favourite day in a Scotland jersey,” said the Galashiels-born 47-year-old, reminiscing to Scottish Rugby’s website.

“It was one of those days that is going to be hard to repeat in your career. Everything just seemed to click."

Townsend, a senior player for Gala from 1990 to 1995 and for Border Reivers from 2002 to 2004 and 2005 to 2007, was accompanied in that victorious line-up, managed by Melrose-born Jim Telfer, now 81, by Jedburgh’s Gary Armstrong, Hawick’s Cameron Murray and Kelso’s Alan Tait.

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Gary Armstrong celebrating after the game (Photo by Patrick Kovarik/AFP via Getty Images)

Armstrong, 54, a player for Jed-Forest from 1987 to 1995 and Border Reivers from 2002 to 2004, made 51 appearances for Scotland between 1988 and 1999.

Murray, 46 tomorrow, played for Hawick prior to turning professional and for Melrose from 2004 to 2012 after a career including stints at Border Reivers from 1996 to 1997 and 2002 to 2004. He collected 24 caps between 1998 and 2001.

Tait, 56, played for his home-town club of Kelso from 1987 to 1988 and was capped 27 times between 1987 and 1999.

Another two of the Scots’ players in that 36-22 win en route to the final Five Nations title had links to the Borders, Cumbrian-born Stuart Reid, 51, now being Police Scotland’s area commander for the region, and Aberdeen-born Stuart Grimes, 46, having, like Townsend, been on the Border Reivers’ books.

Alan Tait weathering an uncomfortable-looking tackle at the Stade de France, north of Paris (Photo: Alex Livesey/Allsport)

Reid picked up eight caps for Scotland altogether and Grimes amassed 71.

Townsend was one of three try-scorers for the Scots, Tait adding another two and Martin Leslie two more, with Kenny Logan chipping in with four coversions and a penalty.

Also in the visitors’ starting line-up were Glenn Metcalfe, John Leslie, Dave Hilton, Gordon Bulloch, Paul Burnell, Scott Murray and Budge Pountney.

Looking back on the Scots’ last win at the Stade de France, a feat not repeated until a side featuring three Borderers – Darcy Graham, Rory Sutherland and captain Stuart Hogg – ended that long wait last Friday, Townsend, a player for Brives at the time, recalled: “We had built such a good understanding between each other as players.

Gary Armstrong being tackled during France's Five Nations match against Scotland at the Stade de France in Paris (Photo: David Rogers /Allsport)

“We had confidence. We had only lost one game in that championship to England at Twickenham and we were close to winning that day. We outscored them three tries to two. We just lost by three points.

“Going to Paris, it was the last game of the championship and we just went out and played.

“I think we were shocked into playing because France scored a try early on, and after that we took the game to France.

“We were finding a lot of holes and it’s unbelievable now to think that we scored five tries in the first half in a city where we’d only won once in 30 years, but it was just great to be a part of.

Gary Armstrong of Scotland in action against France in the Five Nations match at the Stade de France in St Denis. (Photo: David Rogers /Allsport)

“Obviously the next two days were fantastic as well, with Wales beating England and us becoming Five Nations champions.

“On the Monday, our players picked up the trophy at Murrayfield and 10,000 people turned up. I was stuck in France because I had a club game two days later, but it was just a great three-day period.

“In a player’s career, it maybe comes around once or twice – a game when everything just goes well, when you do it for your country and when you do it in such a game that ended up with us winning a trophy, then it was almost that perfect afternoon.”

Pascal Giordani of France being tackled by Cameron Murray of Scotland at the Stade de France (Photo: Alex Livesey /Allsport)