There was a lot of optimism in advance of Scotland’s Six Nations trip to Paris.
The French have really struggled in the championship in the last two years and hopes were high that Gregor Townsend’s team could record the Scots’ first win in the French capital for 20 years.
Well, the match wasn’t just a deflating experience for Gregor Townsend’s side, but it exposed an inconvenient truth. Yes, the 27-10 scoreline looks bad, but the reality is it could have been an awful lot worse.
The hosts had three tries disallowed – all correctly – and a man – Yoann Huget – in the sin bin in the first half. But, with the possible exception of Jamie Ritchie and Magnus Bradbury, all the star performers were French.
This abject display from the Scots – Ali Price’s late consolation try was really no consolation at all – served as a reminder of how much Gregor Townsend and his coaching staff rely on a few world-class stars.
In the absence of Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Huw Jones, their replacements were largely left clutching at straws. And shadows.
There have been plenty of Scottish collectives better than this who have come a cropper at the Stade de France.
And I remember Emile Ntamack scoring a last-minute try at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa to consign the Scots to a quarter-final tie with the All Blacks.
His son, Romain, is only 19, but was in a slightly different class from Peter Horne and his early try was a precursor of the misery which lay in store for the visitors.
Thereafter, the awesome Mathieu Bastereaud was like a European version of the late Jonah Lomu as he sparked chaos in the Scottish defence. He doesn’t always reach this level, but the player was a centre of excellence and it usually took two or three Scots to halt his progress.
Townsend’s men entered the Six Nations with high expectations. But they’ve lost two out of three matches and life could get worse in the next few weeks against Wales at home and England away.
If the Scots don’t win at least one of these contests, they will have gone backwards and the litany of errors in the last two tussles has been unacceptable at this level.
In a World Cup year, this was a harsh reality check. Scotland need to wrap a few players in cotton wool before travelling to Japan.
But, unfortunately, that isn’t an option in modern professional rugby.