Rugby fans have the chance to meet the players who breathed fresh life into Scotland’s NatWest 6 Nations championship hopes when they visit Galashiels tomorrow (Friday).
Head coach Gregor Townsend has arranged an open training session at his old home town ground of Netherdale, offering supporters an exclusive insight into what it takes to become an international rugby player and a chance to meet some of their heroes, a week ahead of the match at BT Murrayfield between Scotland and England.
The session will be hosted by former Scotland captain, Al Kellock, who will be on hand to talk through the team’s session plan and answer questions from fans.
Supporters can also expect to hear from players and coaches throughout the session, followed by an opportunity to meet some of the Scotland squad after training for autographs and photographs.
The squad was roundly praised for the character it showed, following the heavy beating in Wales, to come back and defeat the French last Sunday, having been behind for most of the game.
And the Borders-linked players in the squad shone among the brightest of all, with Jedburgh favourite Greig Laidlaw garnering the man of the match award.
Ex-Hawick star Stuart Hogg, gaining ground and raising the excitement levels, also delivered several of his trademark attacking runs from full-back – at least one of which led to a try – while Melrose loose head prop Jamie Bhatti came off the bench in the second half and gave a solid, reliable showing.
Laidlaw’s return to the starting line-up was characterised by astute game management and a perfect display of kicking, as he carried out scrum-half and, more surprisingly, fly-half roles.
Apart from one instance when the ball wriggled away from him, enabling France to score their second try, and a missed second-half tackle, he kicked two conversions – the first quite brilliant – and six penalty goals, guiding the Scots to their eventual 32-26 win.
It began to look like a familiar story when Teddy Thomas scored the first of two excellent tries for France early on, while kickers Maxime Machenaud and Baptiste Serin were in fine form with the boot.
But tries from Sean Maitland and Huw Jones kept the Scots in touch before the kicking festival of the second half.
Laidlaw told BBC TV viewers afterwards: “The pride in this jersey is unbelievable. It wasn’t pretty at times but, sometimes, that’s international rugby. Sometimes, you’ve got to kick; you’ve got to respect their defence.
“France were tough at times – it was an incredibly tight match and I am so proud of the whole team. They really dug in deep at the end and I thought the forward pack was tremendous, in particular.”
Of the forthcoming game against England, he added: “It’s a few years since we turned them over, so hopefully we can get them this time.”
Gregor Townsend said Scotland’s “resilience” was probably the most pleasing aspect of the victory.
“The effort that it takes to win a test match is huge,” he said. “When you have to do it when you’ve been behind most of the game – that just shows the character in the squad, the learning and togetherness.”
He added: “Parts of the game weren’t working for us in the first half, which is credit to France. But we improved those areas .”
The forwards had a “massive game” in the set piece, said Townsend, and the performance was much better than in Cardiff.
“I thought France were a very good side,” he added. “The rugby they played in the first half would trouble any side in the world.
“To get back into the game and be more accurate than we were last week was very pleasing.”