Stuart McInally admits Scotland will have to make major improvements again if they are to wreck France’s Grand Slam bid at Murrayfield.
While Les Bleus are heading to Edinburgh in two weeks’ time looking to take another step towards a Guinness Six Nations clean sweep, the Scots are just relieved to be off the mark following victory over Italy in Rome.
Gregor Townsend’s team were far from slick but did finally grab their first tries of the tournament after registering blanks in defeat to both Ireland and England.
Skipper Stuart Hogg scored the touchdown of the tournament so far with a 50-yard solo run while Chris Harris and Adam Hastings added a shine to a 17-0 shut-out win with second-half scores.
But, having also let at least another three big opportunities to really punish the Azzurri slip, McInally confessed a repeat of their display in the Eternal City will not be enough to stop the French.
The Edinburgh forward said: “There was a bit of relief in the changing room after the game. We’ve got the monkey off our back and managed to get our first win in the tournament.
“But it was also about proving to ourselves. We didn’t play our best rugby out there but we were pretty clinical at times. Our defence was excellent in not conceding a point and we were able to throw the ball around against a side who got a few points against France.
“Italy are a dangerous side, especially at home and we were pleased to keep them to zero.
“Are there more improvements to come? Oh we can be so much better.
“That wasn’t our finest display by a mile. I feel like we won and that is the main thing – but we have got to be better over the next few weeks to be sure.
“France have been excellent so far and it will be a massive game in two weeks. But we’re looking forward to getting back to Murrayfield and giving it our best shot.
“We’ve got two games left and we’re going for two wins. We’ll back ourselves against anyone at Murrayfield.
“We know how big a challenge it will be against France with the form they are in. We played them not long ago and managed to beat them at home and we’ll be confident of doing that again.”
The Stadio Olimpico triumph was the Scots’ first win since beating Russia’s minnows at last year’s World Cup but McInally has few memories to cherish from his time in Japan.
The 29-year-old was named captain ahead of the tournament but struggled under the weight of the role and was dropped for the final group stage clash with the hosts, which ultimately ended in defeat and the Dark Blues’ early exit.
Those brutal experiences left a mark on McInally and it has taken him time to reclaim both his confidence and his starting slot. But, after being restored to Townsend’s team in Rome for the first time since the World Cup, he is ready to put the ghosts of his time in the Far East to bed.
“I don’t know if redemption is the right word but I’m definitely enjoying being back involved and back playing,” he said. “I’m just happy to be playing well, well enough to get a start on Saturday and help the team to a good win.
“Was it difficult to recover my confidence? A little bit yeah, if I’m honest. The best thing for me was that I got a break after the World Cup.
“I got back in with Edinburgh and I felt that was the right thing, to get straight back in and play. Since then I feel I’ve just been back to my normal self. I’m feeling good as new.
“I feel I can learn a lot from that World Cup experience but I guess it’s a clean slate. It’s a new season and what’s done is done. You just have to get on with it.”