Stuart McInally believes Scotland’s Six Nations growing pains will ensure they stand tall at next month’s World Cup.
Head coach Gregor Townsend was forced to turn to a crop of young and inexperienced players earlier this year as a spate of injuries wrecked his championship plans.
There were some painful lessons along the way as they lost consecutive Tests to Ireland, France and Wales before their dramatic final day draw with England at Twickenham.
But hooker McInally – who will skipper the side as they kick-off their build up to Japan 2019 against France in Nice on Saturday – believes the emergence of a new generation that includes Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Ritchie, Sam Skinner, Sam Johnson and Darcy Graham will make the Dark Blues frustrations earlier this year all worthwhile.
He said: “I actually think the Six Nations was really good for us in terms of allowing us to blood players and get some of the younger guys some more experience.
“Those guys will be better off for that now. They’ve come through some tough games in the Six Nations.
“They have been blooded in now and guys who maybe only had a handful of caps are now into double figures.
“That is only a good thing for them and a good thing for the team.
“The great thing about our squad right now is that everybody is fit so hopefully over the next four games we’ll get a real true reflection of where we’re at.”
This weekend’s clash with Les Bleus on the Riviera is the first of four Tests lined up by Townsend as he looks to get his men in shape for the gruelling conditions they are set to face in the Far East.
It will also be a crucial gauge of how certain individuals are shaping up as the head coach prepares to name his 31-man squad.
Four players – Nick Grigg, Kyle Steyn, Henry Pyrgos and Gary Graham – have already been told they will not be on the plane to Japan as things stand.
The tension will only be ramped up ahead of announcement of the final cut on September 3, but McInally believes most of the squad are doing their best not to dwell on whether they will be in or out.
“I think everyone is just focusing on the game,” said the Edinburgh forward. “If you look too far ahead and think about selection that can sometimes impair you.
“We’re looking to try out some different combinations this weekend and see what works and what doesn’t.
“But it’s still a Test match and we’re representing the whole of Scotland so we’ll be treating it like any other international and looking to win it.
“It’s been intense over the last few weeks in camp, especially the closer that we’ve got to playing games.
“Some players have obviously been cut from the squad so there is a very real scenario now that we’ll be reduced again to a squad of 31.
“However, we’ve got four Test matches and that will be the time to impress.
“We knew that the first cut was coming. That’s just part of the process and unfortunately not everyone can go.
“The four guys all trained well and are still be in Gregor’s thoughts if injuries do occur.
“Yeah it’s tough, but it’s just the way it is.”