Brotherstone finds tons of trouble

Your conventional baptism involves water. Steve Brotherstone's involved fire. He will remember his full international debut for a long time, but not necessarily for all the right reasons.

For all that, he believes Scotland shot themselves in the foot by allowing 13-man France to stifle the match after conceding a try early in the second half.

"Just before half-time, I could see the French heads going down," he said. "Then we got the quick try and I thought 'this is it, we are going to win this one', but then they shut down the game, showed a lot of experience.

"I think we could have won the game in those ten minutes. We got that quick try. If we had got the ball back down there and put pressure on them, maybe got another try or a penalty - whoever got the next score was going to win the game, but we couldn't do that. They then got their players back, got their tails up again, got their confidence back and got on top of us."

Brotherstone was parachuted into the side to hold together a front row that was under the cosh for most of the match. The fact that he still managed to put himself about in the loose, tackling and grafting for the ball speaks volumes about his native rugby ability.

But all that is the icing. The cake was his tight play and when the coaches sit down to pick the side against Wales, they will note that his line-out throwing was consistently low - two out of 13 being intercepted by the French - and the French claimed one vital tight head, the ball spurting drunkenly out the side of a wickedly crumbling scrum.

It could not have been more different from his five-minute cap as a replacement against Ireland last year. "We were already 30 points up, so it was quite easy," he recalled. "Today was probably one of the toughest matches I've played in my rugby career.

"The French are one of the best scrummaging sides in the world. It is not just the front three, behind them they have a huge back five so there is a lot of weight coming through.

"I think they probably had the edge over us in that department throughout. We had worked hard on our scrummaging throughout the week, as you had to when coming up against one of the best scrumming teams in the world. I think that after about 20 minutes we managed to hold our ground."

His view was echoed by lock Scott Murray. "It was a very, very hard game in the scrum. We were just trying to hit and hold for five seconds to get the ball away as soon as possible. There was a lot, a lot of pressure coming through."

The problem with that was that while France always had a solid platform to work from, Scotland had some chaotic possession to deal with and their defence was always hindered by having to stay pushing in the scrum a fraction longer than their opponents.

Brotherstone accepted that all the weight and pressure may have taken its toll in the last few minutes. "There were a lot of tired guys drawing on their last reserves," he admitted.

Now a regular in the Brive team, having played most of the matches since December, he says that French rugby has improved his own game.

"Scrummaging in France was really, really tough for the first month," he says. "It was really, really hard going and I knew what to expect today. They didn't let us down, it was just as I thought. But having played against them at club level definitely helped.

"Having moved to France, my scrummaging and tight play is better, I'm a bigger and better tackler because there are a lot of big guys playing in France and if you don't hit them hard, they will run over the top of you. That helped too.

"The nature of the game meant there was a lot of tackling to be done as the ball came my way a lot and I managed to put in a few hits."

For all that, the Scots scrum remains a problem. The front row seems to have lost their low, Telferesque body positions and the almost subterranean drive that served them so well last season and in the World Cup.

As Brotherstone found, without that tactical advantage, sheer tonnage counts. Forced to do without much of either, his first full cap turned into a long, hard 80 minutes in the cauldron.