Scotland youngster Duncan Weir believes the Dark Blues have put in place the foundations for a Six Nations title assault after their best campaign since 2006.
Despite losing their last two games of the Championship to Wales and France, victories over Italy and Ireland were enough to earn the Scots a share of third place.
But now stand-off Weir – who made just his second start at Test level in Saturday night’s 23-16 defeat to France in Paris – says the signs are good for the future after last year’s wooden spoon humiliation was put to bed by this term’s encouraging display. He said: “We feel we had a wee bit more to play for this year, especially with how close this championship was. If we had won against Wales, we’d have gone to Paris in a really good place and possibly in contention for the title.
“It’s disappointing that didn’t turn out but having finished sixth last year with five defeats, what we have done this year is a great step towards going on and pushing for the championship next year.”
Caretaker coach Scott Johnson has done an admirable job to reshape a squad that was left red-faced by Tonga in the autumn internationals into one which was at least competitive in all five of their fixtures, and more so with their success against the Azzurri and Declan Kidney’s Irishmen – Scotland’s first back-to-back wins in the Six Nations since 2001.
The Australian has so far refused to confirm whether he will make his interim post permanent but is set for talks with Scottish Rugby Union chiefs in the coming weeks. But Weir insists if Johnson does hang around, he will only have to tweak the finest of margins for the side to take that next step.
He said: “We’ve always had that squad spirit and desire to give 110 per cent. The results just came down to some small areas – the bounce of the ball or the accuracy of us kicking from our own half.
“Those things haven’t always matched our effort levels. But once that works out, I’m sure this team will go all the way to the top and cement ourselves as title contenders every year.”
Defeat at the Stade de France always looked likely while the hosts poured forward with menace, leaving Scotland to scramble clear in desperation on many more occasions than was comfortable.
They had defended with bravery and even went in at half-time 6-0 ahead but could not stem the tide, eventually allowing Wesley Fofana and Maxime Medard to score twice within four minutes of each other in the second half to take an unlikely result out of reach.
Weir said: “It was tough to take because after 60 minutes, the crowd were almost about to turn against the French. We felt we could go and sneak it at the end. But after they scored their try they got a bit of momentum and pushed on. It was hard with the conditions. Especially the first half when the rain was coming down heavy and the surface was greasy underfoot. It wasn’t perfect but the rugby we did play in the first half was great. Up there with the best of our championship. It was just a shame we couldn’t do that in the second half.”
Weir collected his fifth cap in the French capital after holding on to the starting slot he was handed for the Welsh meeting at Murrayfield.
At 21, he is one of the youngest members of the Scotland squad but insists he has no problem bossing his older team-mates about from the pivotal fly-half slot.
He said: “I’ve loved having that 10 jersey on my back these last two games – it’s a pressure position but I enjoy that pressure and responsibility. It’s up to me to boss the team about a bit.
“There are obviously guys in the side a lot older and more experienced than I am, but you just have to be confident. To boss them about and control the play, you have to show a bit of personality and make them respect you.
“If you do that you will earn that respect. Although I’m only 21, it’s a responsibility I feel I can live up to.”