Greig Laidlaw exuded an air of calm satisfaction after helping boost the morale of the nation’s rugby public by steering Scotland to a much-needed 17-14 victory over France at a sun-drenched BT Murrayfield.
The 33-year-old Clermont-Auvergne scrum-half was back as captain and controlled a comeback from 14-3 down with a try-assist pass for centre Chris Harris’s crucial second-half try, two conversions and a penalty.
It was the lift Scotland needed after a painful week poring over a calamitous first Rugby World Cup warm-up match in Nice last Saturday when Gregor Townsend’s side were thumped 32-3.
“The jersey, the history and what goes with it is a given to be fired up by,” said the skipper. “The boys were hurting from last week and we wanted to do well for them [those who didn’t feature yesterday] too.
“They never went out there [to Nice] to get that result last week so it was important, both for the jersey and momentum as well to beat a good French team going into the World Cup.”
An improved performance and welcome result were offset by injuries as Exeter lock Sam Skinner limped off with what looked to be a serious hamstring injury and head injuries were picked up by debutant back-rower Blade Thomson, who missed most of last season with a concussion issue, and Glasgow wing Tommy Seymour.
“It’s always disappointing when you see someone getting injured and it may mean that they miss the World Cup,” said Townsend.
“Sam Skinner out the three looks to be more of a serious injury.
“He’ll get scanned tonight and we’ll know more about him later tonight, so fingers crossed for all three players.
“Blade played very well. He was aggressive in defence. He carried well, made the right decisions – when to set up a ruck and when to try and get in behind the defence – so he was excellent.
“I just hope that the HIA [head injury assessment] that he failed means that he doesn’t have to miss any more than the minimum time out the game.”
Laidlaw added: “The crowd maybe thought we had blown the opportunity but we took our time and got our try and helped turn things around.
“We managed to claw our way into it, slowly but steadily. Defence won us the game in the end.”
Sean Maitland’s try before half-time gave the Scots a foothold after another poor start but Laidlaw said: “It was good because we won a Test match against a good French team. We talked about the first ten minutes and starting well and we certainly did not do that so we put ourselves under pressure.”