Relieved Gregor Townsend has thanked English Premiership clubs for agreeing to release his Scotland stars for next week’s delayed Guinness Six Nations curtain-closer against France.
The Dark Blues coach was left sweating after tournament organisers announced earlier this week that the clash in Paris would go ahead this Friday despite there being no agreement in place that would allow him to select key men who play their club rugby south of the border.
But a deal has now been thrashed out, meaning the likes of skipper Stuart Hogg and his Exeter team-mate Jonny Gray have been given the green light to face Les Bleus.
Scotland were due to travel to the Stade de France last month but the game was postponed following a coronavirus outbreak in Fabien Galthie’s squad.
As this week’s re-arranged date lies outside the international window, the English clubs were under no obligation to make their players available.
But Townsend – speaking after his side ran up a record-breaking 52-10 win over Italy – revealed: “I’ve just been told the negotiations are coming to an end.
“There’s going to be a positive outcome which is great to hear.
“Thanks to parties involved, Scottish Rugby, the Six Nations and the PRL that we can get to this situation where we’ll have a strong squad – as strong as we can have – going to Paris, which is a really important game for us and the tournament.
“Does this protect the integrity of the competition? Yeah I believe it does but I also believe it shows we can work together and find a solution.
“I’m sure there was compromises and understanding from both parties. I’m sure there’s been some financial contributions as well.
“But it’s great we can have our players for this massive game next week.”
Tournament chiefs said in a statement: “Six Nations Rugby are pleased to confirm that an agreement has been reached with Premiership Rugby for the release of Scottish players for the final rescheduled fixture of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship, France v Scotland.
“Six Nations and Scottish Rugby would like to take this opportunity to thank all PRL club owners for their understanding and co-operation in these exceptional Covid affected circumstances.”
The news is a further boost to the Scotland side after the recovered from back-to-back defeats against Wales and Ireland to smash Italy and record their biggest ever Championship win.
Hogg admitted ahead of the game he was feeling nervous about standing-in for the injured Finn Russell at fly-half.
But the full-back had nothing to worry about as his side ran in eight tries against an Azzurri outfit who will be glad to see the end of a miserable campaign.
Hooker Dave Cherry scored twice on his first start, while scrum-half Scott Steele also marked his full debut with a try.
There was a brace too for Duhan Van Der Merwe while Darcy Graham, Huw Jones and Sam Johnson contributed to a crushing triumph against an Italian line-up that has now shipped 34 tries in just five games.
Hogg lapped up the result – and admitted the winning margin should probably have been even bigger.
“We had a lot of fun,” he said. “We got ourselves into good positions. Maybe at times just lacked that clinical edge, but we had a lot of fun.
“We had smiles on our faces and the best feeling ever is winning in a Scotland jersey, so that’s what we’ve done today and we’re very, very pleased.
“That scoreline is a good thing for us, but I think if we’re brutally honest we could have had maybe another couple of tries in the first half and maybe in the second half.
“I think I am satisfied – I was just saying we can get better. I think the pleasing thing for us is we know fine well when things don’t quite go our way, and over the last couple of weeks we’ve let ourselves down at times, but today we stuck at it.
“We expressed ourselves. We just dug deep and kept going. Yeah, the scoreboard could have been a little bit more, but we scored 50-odd points in a Test match and that’s absolutely massive for us.”