Grant Gilchrist believes Scotland’s bitter-sweet Guinness Six Nations victory over Wales has left them in the perfect frame of mind for their second championship match at home to France on Saturday.
The Scots pulled off their first triumph in Cardiff for 22 years last weekend after clinging on to win 27-26.
However, the satisfaction of beating the Welsh on their own patch was tinged with a sense of deflation in the Scottish camp afterwards because they completely lost their way in the second half, missed out on the chance of a bonus point, and almost succumbed to what would have been the biggest comeback in Six Nations history.
Lock Gilchrist was suspended for the Cardiff clash and admitted he was “panicking” while watching it unfold on television.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) February 6, 2024
However, the veteran second-rower – who is available to return against Les Bleus – feels it should be viewed in a positive light that his team kicked off the tournament with an away win yet still have so much scope for improvement.
“Winning at this level is tough,” he said. “And I don’t think that it’s a bad thing that we’re ambitious enough to want to put a complete performance out there.
“When you sit back and think that we’ve won in Cardiff for the first time in 22 years – that’s a big achievement. But we’re also not going to sit there and celebrate that as the perfect performance as we know we can be so much better.
“We showed that for 50 minutes with how in control we were. When you win a Test match you should always feel a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment because the amount of work that goes into that is huge and should never be underestimated.
“No matter what the scoreline is or what happened in the game – to get across the line in a Test match is huge.
“To win in the first game of the Six Nations is massive as you need to keep trying to build momentum throughout the tournament and winning ensures you can still do that.
“But having that little slant of disappointment is also no bad thing. It brought us in on Monday eager to learn how to get better in the second half and put a full performance together rather than coming in talking about staying grounded or any of these things.
“I feel it’s not a bad place to be, to feel a little bit disappointed despite winning in Cardiff for the first time in 22 years.”
Gilchrist, 33, is expected to go straight into the starting XV on Saturday after fellow second-rower Richie Gray suffered a tournament-ending bicep injury in Wales.
“It’s a huge loss, Richie’s a world-class player and a great team-mate,” said Gilchrist. “He’s a huge loss to the group and to me personally.
“We sit together and look at stuff all the time. It’s up to the rest of us to stand up. It’s not just on me, there’s Sam Skinner, Scott Cummings and Glen Young and we’ve all got enough experience and talent to fill that void, as much as we will miss the big man.”
France head to Edinburgh on the back of a chastening 38-17 defeat by Ireland in Marseille last Friday but Gilchrist is braced for a backlash from Les Bleus.
“We’re preparing for the best version of them and we know what that looks like,” he said. “We played them three times last year so we know what to expect. They’re a team we know really well and have had good results against.
“But we also know what it’s like if you don’t get it right against them. We know that if we’re at our best it’s a game we can win.”