Gregor Townsend remembers France v Scotland, 1999
In the fallow week between rounds two and three we took a trip down memory lane with Head Coach Gregor Townsend and look back on his involvement in the same fixture against France 20 years ago.
It was 10 April 1999 when Scotland took to the pitch of Paris’s Stade de France in front of an 80,000-strong crowd. The team were in a buoyant mood, having won two games from three in the tournament, but few could have predicted what was to follow.
“It was probably my favourite day in a Scotland jersey,” said Townsend. “It was one of those days that is going to be hard to repeat in your career. Everything just seemed to click.
“We had built such a good understanding between each other as players.
“We had confidence - we had only lost one game in that championship to England at Twickenham and we were close to winning that day, we outscored them three tries to two, we just lost by three points.
“Going to Paris, it was the last game of the championship and we just went out and played.”
“It was probably my favourite day in a Scotland jersey,"
The former fly-half says that it was the French that helped to motivate Scotland, after a 50-metre break in the first minute by Thomas Castaignede following a tapped penalty resulted in a try for Emile Ntamack.
“I think we were shocked into playing because France scored a try early on,” said Townsend, “and after that we took the game to France.
What followed was an historic performance, with five tries scored in the space of 20 minutes by the rampant Scots. Martin Leslie scored two tries and Alan Tait did the same with Townsend responsible for a fifth excursion across the whitewash. The final score was 36-22 in favour of the visitors.
“We were finding a lot of holes and it’s unbelievable now to think that we scored five tries in the first half in a city where we’d only won once in 30 years, but it was just great to be a part of,” he said.
“Obviously the next two days were fantastic as well, with Wales beating England and us becoming Five Nations champions. On the Monday our players picked up the trophy at BT Murrayfield and 10,000 people turned up - I was stuck in France because I had a club game two days later, but it was just a great three-day period.”
Townsend says that it’s a game he’ll never forget.
“In a player’s career it maybe comes around once or twice - a game when everything just goes well, when you do it for your country, and when you do it in such a game that ended up with us winning a trophy then it was almost that perfect afternoon.”