As the national rugby coach named his squad for the championship yesterday he reflected on the bittersweet feeling of last season as he savoured notable triumphs in empty stadiums.
Scotland achieved some excellent results but there was nobody there to see them.
“We would have loved to have shared the win at Twickenham and the last-minute win in Paris with our supporters,” said Townsend. “They were still really enjoyable occasions, but nothing like what we experienced the year before.”
Things aren’t quite back to normal - yesterday’s press conference to announce the squad was conducted via Zoom rather than in person - but there is a sense we are emerging finally from Covid’s near two-year grip.
Scotland will get this year’s campaign underway with a Calcutta Cup clash against England, and Murrayfield has long been sold out for the renewal of international sport’s oldest rivalry.
Last year’s victory at Twickenham was Scotland’s first at English rugby’s HQ in 38 years so revenge will be foremost in the minds of Eddie Jones’ players as they head north for the game on February 5.
These matches never lack for a competitive edge but Townsend has added a little spice to the occasion by selecting two players who were previously part of the England set-up.
Ben White, a young scrum-half, actually played for England against Barbarians at Twickenham in 2019 but the match was a non-cap international so he remains eligible to pull on the dark blue through his Scottish grandfather.
Andy Christie, a back-row forward, played for Scotland at youth level but then represented England Under-20s before being lured back into the Scotland fold by Townsend.
He qualifies through his grandmother and anyone doubting his commitment to the cause need only look at his Twitter feed yesterday as he told his family about his call-up for the Six Nations.
The emotion of the occasion was plain to see and it’s fair to surmise that Christie’s relatives will be supporting the thistle over the red rose next month.