France may be gunning for the 2021 Championship title in Friday night’s decider but Stuart Hogg says Scotland are just as desperate to claim their best-ever finish in the Six Nations era.
Scotland won the final Five Nations crown in 1999 but since Italy were added to the mix the following year, their highest placing is third – achieved in 2001, 2006, 2013 and 2018.
Gregor Townsend’s side will finish second this year if they beat France by at least eight points in Friday’s trip to Paris, unless Les Bleus get a four-try bonus point and Scotland don’t – in which case Fabien Galthié’s men would still come second.
Equally, if Scotland record a bonus-point victory at the Stade de France, then they will secure second spot providing they stop Les Bleus earning two bonus points of their own.
And while much of the focus is on France’s attempt to leapfrog Wales and win the 2021 Guinness Six Nations – for which they require a bonus-point win by at least 21 points or a bonus-point win by 20 points with at least six tries – skipper Hogg claims the Scots are just as motivated.
“For the neutrals, it could be a cracking game of rugby,” he told the Scottish Rugby Union. “They’re going to come out all guns blazing, ready to attack because they’ve got 20-odd points to beat us by.
“That’s a challenge on its own for us. We know fine well what they’re about but everybody has written us off in terms of what we can do.
“But we’re hugely excited about going out there. If we beat them by eight points, we finish the highest we ever have done in the Six Nations and that’s a big motivating factor for us.
“It’s a challenge but one we’re very much looking forward to facing.”
Scotland suffered a late blow to their plans with No.8 Matt Fagerson ruled out of the match with an ankle injury suffered in training, having initially been selected in Townsend’s starting XV.
Nick Haining is promoted from the bench in his stead, with Ryan Wilson – who could win his 50th cap against France – called up to the replacements and Hogg believes the late additions will seize their chance.
“First and foremost, we hope that Matt is alright,” he added. “He’s been massive for us during this campaign and we wish him a very speedy recovery.
“With that comes an opportunity for Nick Haining to start – he’s been very, very good so I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.
“Then also Ryan Wilson, he’s one hell of a character to have back within the squad. He’s got a chance to win his 50th, so it’s a hugely special moment for him.
“Hopefully we can do these guys justice by putting in a good performance.”