Sione Tuipulotu has called on buoyant Scotland to treat this weekend’s showdown with France like a cup final as he prepares for one of the biggest games of his career.
The Scots head to Paris top of the Guinness Six Nations table after starting with bonus-point wins away to England and at home to Wales.
Victory at Stade de France on Sunday would leave them in prime position to go for a first Grand Slam since the 1990 Five Nations, with back-to-back home games against Ireland and Italy to come in March.
Tuipulotu explained that there is a blend of optimism and steely focus as Gregor Townsend’s side gear up for their high-stakes trip to the French capital.
“We haven’t started like this before so there is an extra buzz around that and everyone’s a little happier around camp,” said the Glasgow centre. “But there’s also an intensity about the group now because we know what an opportunity we have.
“We take it game by game but if we go to Paris and win we set ourselves up for another big week. Right now, this is our Grand Final and that’s what we’ve got to treat it like. If we win this game we put ourselves in a good position.”
Australia-born Tuipulotu, who has a Scottish grandmother, only made his international debut 16 months ago and the 26-year-old is humbled by the magnitude of matches he has been involved in during that time. This Sunday’s is arguably the biggest yet.
“I feel like for the last year I’ve been in this thing where every couple of months it’s the biggest game of my career,” he said. “We had the All Blacks come to Murrayfield (in November) and for me growing up in Australia and with the All Blacks having that aura about them, I suppose that was the biggest game of my career at that point.
“Then you go into the first game of the Six Nations and you play England at Twickenham and you ask yourself ‘is that the biggest game of my career?’
“I’d never played at Twickenham before this tournament and now I’m going to Paris and I’ve never played there either. It’s going to be a crazy experience for me.
“From where I was three years ago to where I am now, getting the opportunity to play in these big games, I am truly grateful. It’s a massive opportunity and I want to take it with both hands and represent the country well.”
Despite their strong start in the tournament and the fact they won in Paris behind closed doors on their last visit in 2021, Tuipulotu admits Scotland are still the underdogs.
“There is a belief in the team that we can go and do that again,” he said, referring to the win two years ago. “I wasn’t involved in that game but we address this as a new challenge because that was played behind closed doors and there’s going to be a packed house of passionate French supporters.
“They’ll have changes to their team, we’ll have changes to our team compared to that game so it’s a new challenge. It’s not going to be the same game as last time.
“France are the Grand Slam reigning champions so we know we’re not going there as favourites but that’s part of the beauty of it because Scotland are pretty comfortable going places as underdogs. That’s been a part of our identity. We knocked off England at Twickenham and this is another challenge we’ve got to throw our best punches at.”