To The Ends Of The Earth

It’s a little strange to think that in just over 30 days time I’ll be setting foot on the other side of this giant planet of ours to witness the almighty spectacle that will be Scotland vs Romania, our own little entree into Rugby World Cup 2011. I keep looking forward to the EMC Test against Ireland this weekend, then I remember that I’ll have to try and find a pub somewhere in S.E. Asia with BBC2. Hmm. So yes, this means I’ll be disappearing for a few weeks while everyone else gets overcome with hype, but we don’t want the site to be quiet with such a lot of rugby chitchat floating about. So in the mean time Al and A.D will keep you up to date with goings on in the rugby world here and on Twitter and I’ll chip in where I can.

So what do I want to get from the Rugby World Cup?

Well I’d like Scotland to continue their record of qualifying for the knockout stages. They topped their pool in 1991 and have been runners-up in every other one. As I have discussed before, it may well be in France’s hands how far we progress after that based on results in their pool that will determine who we play. There’s only one team playing in an all black strip that we want to play, and it’s not the host nation.

One thing I would really like to see is Scotland come out and just plain smash Romania. This may do the Romanians a disservice, and to a certain extent the fixture list allows for a slow start by our boys, but our top XV should really have too much for them in terms of fitness and skill. It would be a great confidence booster to get straight out of the blocks with a good win, to announce themselves to the tournament and say “hey, maybe don’t write us off just yet”. As with Andy Murray in the tennis, you wonder whether it is better to have a tester early on and come through it, or to coast through your opening matches and hope you are warmed up when a true test presents itself?

I would say in the case of rugby you want to coast if at all possible. The physical benefits to squad well-being of putting a game to bed early – especially with Georgia 4 days later – must outweigh the benefits of surviving a mentally challenging match and learning from the experience.

I think Georgia could be a sticky one but it should prove a good warm up for Argentina in terms of style, assuming the Argies haven’t evolved much since last time when a fully functioning Scotland should have beaten them in Paris. Even if they did go on to claim third spot.

Let’s face it though, when the draw was announced Scotland vs England in Auckland was the fixture that got most of us excited. Our focus should be winning against England and topping the group. In my blacker moments I wonder if England have – again – peaked at just the right time, having largely been rubbish since 2003 (with an inexplicable wee blip in 2007). As soon as they announced the draw and we thought “nae bother”, Johnston’s men started to shift up a gear in terms of actually looking less clueless, culminating in victories over Australia (we’ve got one of those too) and a near Grand Slam (don’t have one of those). It could be a real arm wrestle, and it’ll be interesting to see how Calcutta Cup 2.0 matches up in terms of atmosphere. I think it should be a great game and hopefully we’ll get the support of the odd neutral, but it does still worry me a little, as it should. It’s a World Cup.

On a personal level I’d like to experience a new country and get the chance to talk rubbish with rugby fans of all shapes, sizes and nationalities. So if you see us out and about come and chit chat, Al and I will both be traipsing about looking a bit like this (a few years older, and possibly without the Italian dudes):

Rory and Al in St Etienne, 2007

There is also some new beer called Men In Skurrts to try out, which I can see definitely being subjected to a “tasting session”. Trying to write that sentence without talking about tasting Men in Skirts was quite tricky.

But above all I want this to be a cracking tournament with highs and lows, surprises and twists (like the last one) and some great rugby (unlike much of the last one). I hope you will be watching, reading, listening and enjoying your rugby.

I will be.

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