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Mixed emotions for Simon Berghan after Scotland debut in France


Scotland captain Greg Laidlaw has returned to Gloucester for treatment

Scotland captain Greg Laidlaw has returned to Gloucester for treatment

Scotland captain Greg Laidlaw has returned to Gloucester for treatment

Simon Berghan was emboldened by Scotland's reaction to some major challenges in Paris despite being on the losing side in his international debut.

The tighthead prop got his chance in the 59th minute of Scotland's 22-16 RBS 6 Nations defeat by France after replacing Zander Fagerson.

By that stage, Vern Cotter had been forced into a series of unplanned changes with captain Greig Laidlaw and his deputy, John Barclay, both off in the first half.

Barclay's replacement, John Hardie, lasted less than a minute of the second half and others followed off for treatment.

However, Scotland were level with nine minutes left and it took two penalties for France to overcome a resolute defence. The front-page headline of L'Equipe on Monday morning summed up the home side's feelings: 'Relief'.

New Zealand-born Berghan said: "We are all pretty gutted with the result. I actually feel the boys dug in at the end and showed we had turned a corner.

"It's a disappointing result but I have mixed emotions because I am chuffed to have pulled on the shirt.

"I never got the chance last weekend but this week I got the opportunity and, against a team like France, for a tighthead prop to get a debut is as big a challenge as any and I was right up for it."

Also making his first Scotland appearance on foreign soil was Ali Price, the replacement for Laidlaw, who has returned to Gloucester for assessment of his ankle injury.

Berghan said: "We were under the pump losing Grieg and Barcs early, but I think we have a really good squad.

"We can call on anyone to come and play and we will all have confidence in that now. There is talk about the depth in Scottish rugby and I certainly think there has been a corner turned regarding that. I think that showed in the end with that defence."

There was also valuable experience for 22-year-old Jonny Gray, who took on the captaincy for most of the match.

"We have got quite a good leadership in the squad," 26-year-old Berghan said. "Guys like Jonny put their hand up all the time in training during the week.

"So for them to step into a leadership role is pretty easy. Obviously to do it out in front of a sold-out French crowd, there is a lot of pressure on him, but he handled it really well.

"It was a big blow to lose Barcs and Greig, because Greig is brilliant, but I think we've got guys now who can step into the position and take control and I think Jonny proved that as well."

As well as some last-ditch defending after the hour mark, Scotland showed their resilience by not losing any of their own scrums against a formidable French pack.

Edinburgh front-rower Berghan said: "We were under no illusions, the French were going to target the scrum. They had a brilliant scrum against England last week and they have the reputation of their scrum being their strength.

"So we knew the scrum was coming and we trained really well for it. It was a tough day at the office but we showed at the end when we got bodies on the line and stopped them getting a try.

"For me it was a brilliant learning curve and a brilliant challenge. It couldn't have been better for a young tighthead to make his debut against a scrummage like that.

"I think we have got a brilliant scrum."

Scotland had the consolation of outscoring France by two tries to one as well as claiming a bonus point.

Berghan said: "We have got a lot of confidence in the squad and we talked about that even coming to France, we were coming to win.

"Unfortunately we have not got the result but we will go into Wales with the same mentality at home at Murrayfield in front of a sold-out crowd again.

"We really want to make a dent in the Six Nations this year. We are confident we are going into each game to win, that's the feeling in the squad."

Scotland could be without Laidlaw for the visit of Wales on February 25 though after he left the Stade de France on crutches and his lower leg in a protective boot.

The Scottish Rugby Union medics will also monitor head injuries to Hardie, Alex Dunbar, Fraser Brown and Barclay, who also hurt a shoulder and is back with Scarlets. Josh Strauss also took a blow to his side.