Gregor Townsend targets Triple Crown after Scotland's 'best display of Six Nations' in defeat to France
Scotland won their opening two matches, against England and Wales, but the match at the Stade de France was a significant step up in terms of the quality of the opposition. Townsend had no complaints about Grant Gilchrist’s early red card and the coach was pleased with the way his side coped with the dismissal and the concession of three tries in the opening 19 minutes.
The Scots remain second in the standings but are now level on 10 points with England and France and five behind leaders Ireland who visit Murrayfield in the next round of matches, on March 12. A home win would give Scotland their first Triple Crown in 33 years, the prize awarded when one of the so-called ‘home nations’ defeats the other three.
“I was very pleased with the performance, it was our best of the championship so far,” said Townsend after Scotland came back from 19-0 down to get within four points of France before conceding a late try to Gael Fickou. “I'm disappointed with the result but proud of how the players played, and proud of how they controlled the situation, the emotions and how they adapted to being a man down and how much belief they had in each other. I'm disappointed we didn't take the two or three opportunities which would have led to us winning the game.
“I feel we have improved from our previous game, there will be so much which will come out of this game for us. There will be things we have to do better but there will be belief in how we played against one of the best teams in the world at their home stadium. We will need that belief and we will need that improvement for our next game. We will be hugely motivated to play for a trophy back home against Ireland.”
Asked if the Triple Crown still felt like a meaningful prize, Townsend was unequivocal. “Absolutely, the championship is what everyone is gunning towards, you are going to have to win four or five games to win the championship but if you are in the mix for a Triple Crown then that’s something different. We’ve not been in that mix for a while. We have not won one since 1990 so it will be a motivator but the motivator is to still be in this championship come the final weekend [when Scotland host Italy].”
Gilchrist, the Scotland second-row, was sent off after seven minutes when his shoulder made contact with the head of Anthony Jelonch.
“If you tackle in the head area then you are looking straight away at a red,” said Townsend. “Were there any mitigating circumstances? Was there a dip or chest first, but no. It wasn't his intention, he was second man in the tackle and it's very rare for us to have high tackles or any yellow or red cards so Grant will have to learn from that as second man in there. If he’s upright then he can’t go in with his shoulder, he’s just got to tackle lower.”
Numbers were evened up five minutes later when France’s Mohamed Haouas was dismissed for leading with his head on Ben White. By that stage, France were already two tries to the good, through Romain Ntamack and Ethan Dumortier, and they added a third on the 19th minute when Thomas Ramos intercepted a Finn Russell pass. But Scotland recovered well, with Huw Jones scoring a try in each half and Russell adding a third before Fickou had the final say for France.
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