STRANGE days have found us. Before Saturday, Scotland had won their opening game in the Six Nations just three times - and always at Murrayfield.

Before Saturday, they had not won at Twickenham since 1983. Before Saturday, the smart money was on Gregor Townsend’s team having a respectable showing in the tournament but not actually going so far as to challenge for the Championship itself.

Now, though, the title race is wide open, the expectation sky high. The lack of crowds because of the pandemic is an unsettling factor that all the teams have to deal with this year, but for Scotland, the heightened hopes of their support is an extra, unusual burden.

It is a burden that in the past has been too much to bear for many Scots teams, who have been so bowled over by the enormity of beating England that they have failed to follow it up with anything of note. This year, however, there are encouraging signs that last weekend’s 11-6 win in London will not be a fleeting moment of glory.

Given its rarity, the mere fact of winning at Twickenham has to come as a major morale boost, but the really heartening factor is the way in which that win was achieved. This was not a backs-to-the-wall performance by Scotland. Not one of those games in which they somehow get everything right in defence and scramble a victory against the odds. It was a commanding display in which they took control of the game right from the start and maintained a stranglehold almost for the duration.

Jamie Ritchie, for one, believes it can be the start of something special, and that this squad have the capacity to achieve a lot more. “We’re all aware we were on such a high on Saturday,” the blindside flanker says. “But we also made it clear we had an opportunity to go again and hopefully do something even more special.

“We know this is just the start. Now we have an opportunity to take on Wales and hopefully we can win that as well.

“It’s the start of the tournament and we want to do as well as we can. We won the first game, but it’s gone now. We enjoyed it at the time, now it’s on to the next one. That’s our mind set and we need to focus on the Wales game coming up and do the best we can.”

Scottish teams, including Ritchie’s own Edinburgh, are invariably more comfortable with being the underdogs, so their mind set will also have to take account of the fact that they will be favourites on Saturday. Certainly, having beaten Wales in Llanelli at the end of October, they should approach the match with a fair degree of confidence, although Ritchie is careful to suggest that he and his team-mates cannot afford to underestimate the Welsh, who themselves got off to a winning start on Sunday when they beat Ireland 21-16 in Cardiff.

“We’ve put ourselves in a position to go on and do something special. But we’re only as good as our next game, so I think for us it’s concentrating on Wales coming up at the weekend.

“They looked a better team (against Ireland) than they looked in the autumn. They are certainly more physical and they are developing their game and trying to play a bit more. They are a bit more direct than we have seen them.

“Wales will be hurting from that game in the autumn. We know the threat they can pose and we hope that we are ready for the game come Saturday.”

After Wales at Murrayfield will come back the hardest task of all when Scotland travel to France. Ritchie is confident they can win in the Stade de France too, although he insisted they would not get too far ahead of themselves.

“Why not? Last year when France were the form team and they came to Murrayfield we beat them there. The next thing for us is to go across to Paris and do the same.

“But don’t get me wrong. France will be a huge challenge - but one we don’t need to worry about just now. We’ll worry about Wales first.”

FOUR members of the Wales squad who beat Ireland have been ruled out of the Scotland game because of injury. Dan Lydiate has cruciate ligament damage, Tomos Williams has hurt a hamstring, and Johnny Williams and Hallam Amos have head injuries.