It has been not so much as a coach as in a coach that Frank Hadden has savoured the unique experience of the Six Nations. "I've been on the bus with the lads from the club to Dublin, Cardiff, Twickenham and Paris," Scotland's head coach of 10 months reflected before kick-off at Murrayfield yesterday. "Maybe it gives you a sense of appreciation of what people want from an international side."
Certainly, none of the natives in Scotland's national stadium went away complaining after one of those glory days Murrayfield had all but forgotten. From his new vantage point in the driving seat at pitch-side, Hadden had the happiest view of all as his side hit top gear with a vengeance, depositing one mighty spanner in the works of this year's heavily favoured championship model.
The French spluttered from the first to last whistle. The va va voom was all Caledonian. New Caledonian.
Picking up where they left off in their second-half "draw" against the All Blacks in November, Hadden's men bottled the threat of any French flair at source. For most of the afternoon, it seemed that Hadrian's Wall had been transported up the A1 and laid down in front of the opposition, so resolute was the Scottish defence. And when it came to the small matter of their own attacking Scotland had the men prepared to run through brick walls.
Sean Lamont, the bottle blond bombshell, succeeded in getting through twice. But there were Scottish heroes all round - the unheralded front row, the spiky Mikey Blair, even the greatly maligned Dan Parks. The Australian outside-half, known as "Compass" because of his natural wanderlust, certainly found his bearings yesterday.
So did the coach who kept faith with him, and who has punched an almighty hole in the Six Nations reckoning. A former schoolteacher, Hadden taught the long odds-on favourites a rudimentary lesson: make sure the key is in the ignition from the start. He has done it against French opposition before, having guided Edinburgh to Heineken Cup victories against Toulouse and Perpignan in the past two seasons.
Still, this brilliantly-schemed gubbing, to use the local vernacular, was a step up to another level for the 51-year-old Dundonian - a disciple of Total Rugby since the afternoon he spent as a Headingley full-back being given the run-around by Clive Woodward, Paul Dodge and the rest of Chalkie White's vintage Leicester XV.
Hadden's next challenge is to test his players against the reigning champions in Cardiff next Sunday - before England, big-time winners in absentia yesterday, make the trip to the Scottish capital on 25 February.
His predecessor, the Australian Matt Williams, had the legend Dun Alba inscribed on the wall of the home dressing at Murrayfield - Fortress Scotland. Presumably he did not know the Gaelic for Bouncy Castle. In his two hapless years in charge of the Scottish team, Williams won just one match at Murrayfield - against Italy - and three out of 17 in total. Hadden has already won four out of six.
The pity was that Murrayfield was 17,000 short of capacity to see win number four. There were even 3,000 folk who bought tickets and did not think it worth the while to turn up. It was hard to say whether they, or the French, were the biggest losers on a memorable Murrayfield day.Reuse content