1 It’s tougher than ever at the top

To win three games out of five yet finish only fourth, as Scotland did, highlights just how fierce the competition is at the upper end of the Six Nations. France and Ireland also won three out of five, and every team bar Italy proved capable of beating any other on their day. 

Wales were worthy champions, finishing four points clear and winning four of their games. They came within 30 seconds or so of a Grand Slam, being denied only by a last-gasp French fightback. 

But by the same token, they only won by a point at Murrayfield. As Scotland forward Jamie Ritchie reflected after his team’s win in Paris: “If the Wales game this year goes the other way, we win the tournament.”

2 Stuart’s Hogg leadership is crucial for Scotland

The full-back has never lacked self-belief, and since becoming captain has galvanised his team into becoming equally confident - something that was a crucial ingredient of their two historic triumphs at Twickenham and the Stade de France. “The first role as a leader is to play well and he has done that really well,” was the post-tournament verdict of head coach Gregor Townsend about his skipper. “Against England he was outstanding - among the best he has ever played for Scotland.

“He is really growing into a really great Scotland captain. Out of all our players he is the one that cares most about Scotland’s place in history. 

“He is a massive rugby fan. He loves Scottish rugby and Scottish history, so he is aware of how big these two wins have been this year and we have seen the best of him as a leader and a player. We’re delighted with where he is.”

3 France are building ominously towards their home World Cup

When France kick off the next Rugby World Cup on home soil against New Zealand in September 2023, Les Bleus will aim to have arrived as serious contenders for a first world title. Everything suggests they are heading in the right direction – from a coaching perspective under the astute guidance of Fabien Galthie, to a playing squad packed with quality and headed by the likes of Antoine Dupont, Charles Ollivon, Mathieu Jalibert, Romain Ntamack and Gregory Alldritt. It would appear that France are at their strongest for years, and if they can handle huge home World Cup expectation, then winning rugby’s golden prize is a realistic ambition.

4 Wales boss Wayne Pivac has silenced his doubters

Pivac faced a difficult assignment when he was appointed as Warren Gatland’s successor to become Wales head coach. Starting work in November 2019, Pivac took over from one of the most successful coaches in rugby history who masterminded four Six Nations title triumphs, three Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-final appearances during his time in charge. A tough first year followed, with Wales losing seven Tests, but they ended the current Six Nations campaign just seconds away from achieving a Grand Slam. He also made some big calls and successful decisions, which contributed to confirming that the Welsh Rugby Union got its appointment spot-on.

5 Ireland remain vital role models for Scotland

This is not a vintage Ireland side, but they know how to draw on the rich legacy of more successful recent teams to keep on performing at a consistently high level. Scotland have themselves become more consistent over the past year or two, but they can still learn a thing from Ireland’s unrelenting professionalism.

6 England are at a coaching crossroads 

England, World Cup finalists 16 months ago, slumped to a fifth-placed finish on the back of defeats against Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Head coach Eddie Jones will now be the central figure in what Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney describes as a “brutally honest analysis” of England’s Six Nations campaign, and while Jones is expected to stay at the helm – in his favour is a win ratio of 77 per cent since he took charge – it seems change in some areas is inevitable, with coaching staff and playing personnel certain to be scrutinised.

7 Italy remain worryingly hopeless

The one troubling element of the rugby on show this year was the utter inability of the Italians to put up a fight in any of their matches. They have traditionally targeted the fixture with Scotland as their biggest chance of the season to win a game, but this time round their last outing of the Championship was the worst, as Gregor Townsend’s side ran in 52 points against them.

8 Crowds cannot return soon enough

The coronavirus pandemic meant that all 15 games in this season’s Six Nations took place behind closed doors. From the Aviva Stadium in Dublin to Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, matches were punctuated only by players’ shouts and the referee’s whistle. And not only were the grounds deserted, normally-thronging streets outside – central Cardiff being arguably the most obvious example – were empty as shutters stayed down on bars, pubs and restaurants. It was a weird experience for all concerned, yet to everyone’s credit, the quality of rugby on show was not diminished in any way.