Press Conference: Gregor Townsend reflects on record-breaking Scotland

Gregor Townsend hailed the spirit and togetherness of his team after 14-man Scotland fought back to beat France 27-23 for their first victory in Paris since 1999.

Gregor Townsend hailed the spirit and togetherness of his team after 14-man Scotland fought back to beat France 27-23 for their first victory in Paris since 1999.

Title-chasing France needed a bonus point and a winning margin of 21 points to leapfrog Wales but it was Scotland who scored the opening try through Duhan van der Merwe.

Tries from Brice Dulin, Damian Penaud and Swan Rebbadj saw Les Bleus recover to lead 23-20 before Scotland were reduced to 14 players when Finn Russell was sent off.

But a second Van der Merwe try completed a dramatic late turnaround for Scotland, who can add victory in Paris to away wins in England and Wales – the latter in the 2020 Championship.

And Townsend believes his players’ record-breaking feats on the road are an indication of their character after ending their 22-year wait for a Championship triumph in France.

“It’s incredible as to break one record is a massive achievement but to do three in those last three away games in the Six Nations shows what a team we have, what a group of players,” he said.

“We’ve been really competitive in the last two years in every game we’ve had in the Six Nations, I think we’ve won six and had four games we’ve lost that have been very close.

“To keep that going in a bit of adversity prior to the match and during the match shows that this team has spirit, togetherness and that win means a lot for them and Scottish rugby.

“It means a lot for our nation like the win at Twickenham did.”

Despite Scotland concluding their campaign with wins against Italy and France, in addition to their historic Round 1 success against England, they finished the Championship in fourth.

But Townsend said he will take plenty of encouragement from the way his team performed overall, especially having come so close to winning the two games they lost to Wales and Ireland.

“We bookended the Championship with two excellent performances and two excellent wins. We had to manage our squad the last two weeks and it worked in our favour,” he said.

“It allowed us to give players opportunities last week [against Italy] and show in a different game when the sun was shining that we can attack really well.

“Our set-piece against England and France has shown we can compete against the best teams in the world, Ireland was our disappointment and Wales we played well.

“Wales, there was moments in the game that didn’t go our way but we played well, Ireland we didn’t perform at our best but in the Ireland game it was 24-24 with a few minutes to go.

“In the Wales game we had an opportunity to win trailing by a point so it shows the team will fight for everything, stay in the fight in each game they play, and that’s really encouraging.”

Townsend also challenged his players to kick on from their 2021 Guinness Six Nations showing, suggesting the wins over England and France are the building blocks for future success.

“You want to be consistent, tough to beat and the team have shown that,” he said. “You also want to be winning titles so there’s disappointment we haven’t finished higher than fourth.

“I still can’t believe these last two years we’ve had three wins and two losing bonus points and finished fourth both times because this team deserves more.

“I think it would be very rare not to finish higher with those performances but will take those wins, especially those big wins against France and England, and they’ll help us in future years.”

Scotland’s victory handed this year’s title to Wales but skipper Stuart Hogg said his team were only concerned with themselves and is excited about what the future holds.

“We weren’t bothered about anyone else tonight other than ourselves and we knew full well coming across here was going to be a huge challenge for us,” said Hogg.

“But I believed in our individual ability and us as a collective and we got hugely excited about the challenge coming across here and we’ve managed to deliver.

“The thing we’ve touched on after Twickenham and after tonight is that this is just the beginning of something memorable and we’ll get excited for our next challenge.”