Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland’s Route to the World Cup Final

Stuart Hogg - pic © Al Ross
Stuart Hogg - pic © Al Ross

Here’s how Scotland could actually make the 2015 Rugby World Cup final.

Pool Stages: Scotland are startled by Japan but put the hurt on the physical USA team to see them through the first couple of games. South Africa are initially stunned by the sight of WP Nel and Josh Strauss without a beard lining up against them, but recover to put Scotland away in the dying minutes and overall they top the group.  The closest result comes in the final game against Samoa who mount a stern case for inclusion in the knockouts. Backed by a strong Newcastle crowd, Finn Russell creates a moment of magic and Scotland cling on for a single point win with a scuffed drop goal.

QF: With Fiji (led by Leone Nakarawa) having a strong influence on the outcome of Pool A, Scotland face the only southern hemisphere team they’ve beaten with any great success in recent years. Despite this, the entire Australian squad are photographed coming out of Chinawhite with the cast of Made in Chelsea in the early hours of Sunday morning. The home crowd are unable to decide which team they want to triumph the least, while Taqele Naiyaravoro watches from the sidelines and decides we’re not such a bad bunch after all. Drizzly rain and the fact Australian players keep throwing up at the side of the pitch allows Scotland to grind out a 9-6 win.

SF: After the misery of the previous week England is swathed in a blistering Indian Summer and suddenly it’s ‘taps aff’ weather across the country for the final two rounds. Ireland come out of the blocks like the clappers but as the sun takes hold the ginger-haired warriors from the Emerald Isle (and Rob Harley) wilt in the heat. However, Scotland’s Southern Hemisphere contingent take control in conditions resembling the Highveld and nudge a late, but deserved, 21-18 victory.

Final: Scotland 3-108 New Zealand. And you thought this was a work of fiction.

You can use the tool below from SuperBru to work out your own permutations for the knockout stages (they set the defaults, not us).

If anyone’s interested we might get involved with some SuperBru games over the tournament.

Additional “reporting” from Cammy Black and Al Kerr

18 Responses

  1. South Africa Vs. France final, South Africa win the tournament. You heard it here first!

    NZL v IRE (NZL)
    RSA v AUS (RSA)
    FRA v ARG (FRA)
    ENG v SCO (ENG)

    NZL v RSA (RSA)
    FRA v ENG (FRA)

    RSA v FRA (RSA)

  2. Scotland to beat England for the first time in over 25 years at home anyone?

    I think I’d get quite good odds on that.

    Then again I’d rather keep my tenner!

    If we make it to the quarters I won’t be disappointed! Modest aims, modest aims!

  3. I’m my usual unrealistically optimistic self about this WC, as I always am before the 6N and AIs. Then my dreams are usually shattered, but why change the habits of a lifetime? As always it will come down to selection and injuries. Will we hamstring ourselves by not picking our best players a la the Scott Johnson era? I’m fairly confident that this won’t happen under BVC, although the possible selection of either Laidlaw or Gilchrist as captain does worry me. That said I do accept we are short of captain material, although for me a certain Mr Barclay co do a job given he regularly captains the Scarlets. Anyway I’m rambling off topic, I’m optimistic we’ll qualify from our group, and from there who knows…….

  4. In contrast, I am not (currently optimistic). I am – apparently like most of the rest of the non-Scottish rugby World – not confident at all about beating Samoa. I am also nervous of the potential banana skins posed by Japan and the USA. On top of that I am not convinced we will even have a team by the time we face Samoa, with the Springboks the week before and 6 games building up to that point! However, that may well change as we get nearer to the big event and that weird Scottish genetic predisposition starts to flare up again… Not sure what to expect with the warm ups. I kind of hope that BVC goes with his strongest available squad against Ireland. Give the putative 1st choice players a chance to prove themselves and then subsequently use the games against Italy to work on faulty systems and give the other players a chance to depose (and look after the irreplaceables) . For me, with everyone fit the first 15 more or less chooses itself, bar the back row. I like all of them individually, but I don’t think the combos we used in the 6N were effective. I’m quite excited about who and what we’ll see there in the tournament and beyond.

  5. Has anyone been watching our rivals take part in the Pacific Nations Championship? Samoa and to a lesser extent Japan have fielded weakened squads but the rugby on offer has been pretty good and you can see all the full matches on YouTube now.

    Samoa’s strength in depth is considerable. Against Fiji they fielded only 6 of the starting line up that faced the All Blacks and still managed a draw against a side with plenty of quality in the backs but absolutely woeful fitness. Samoa have played a predictably direct and muscular game. Presumably due to cost issues, most of the star players have been absent which means there is a danger for Samoa they will be under-prepared during the RWC. We’ll need to be at our best to beat them whichever line up takes the field.

    Japan have also only rarely played their top players and they should have 6 players with Super Rugby squads at the RWC. Their scrum has continued its improvement under Eddie Jones and they still possess exceptionally high levels of handling skills and the ability to exploit space quickly. Regardless, they are nowhere near as strong as their World Rugby Ranking suggests. Scotland should be able to dominate possession against them and win an uncomplicated game.

    USA finally beat Japan, but they only played against a weakened side. Lots of muscle, a few never say die forwards, but very little to offer in attack. Their back three are quick but are essentially mid-ranking professionals, their midfield are worse than Scotland’s cart horse midfield of old, and their half backs are second rate. Scotland’s second string line up should beat them comfortably enough.

    The RWC fixture list is very challenging for Scotland, with only 4 days between Japan and USA, and then a 6 day turnaround between SA and our (potentially) winner takes all game v Samoa. For me, our biggest issue is who we field when we need to rest Russell and whether to risk him against SA.

  6. My worry is that we are a target for every team in our pool. USA and Japan will fancy taking us as an upset. Samoa must beat us to progress to the QFs. To South Africa, we are a potential banana skin. As a result we could be up agains four full strength sides, which is particularly daunting when you consider facing a full strength Bok outfit before the must win against Samoa. Hopefully our second string can see away USA and Japan in the first two games to our best players fresh for our most vital encounters.

    1. We keep forgetting that it’s not the 20th Century any more. Excuse the cliche, but there are no easy games now – EVERY game will be tight. VC will need to field our strongest side in every game, although that side may vary depending on the opponents (perceived) strengths and weaknesses.
      We are currently two places below Samoa and may be three or even four places off after the PNC matches today. Imagine how they are feeling – they have the same banana skins in USA and Japan, and have the unenviable task of being favourites against us in Newcastle!
      Admittedly Samoa have a less intimidating schedule, but both USA and Japan will be targeting them too.
      Funnily enough I think the work of fiction above may well come true, at least until the Semis – I can see us being scared by Japan, but recover to win and then win well against USA. Another “brave defeat” at the hands of SA and a tight win against Samoa. We come up against an arrogant Aussie side that haven’t watched our games and we startle them with a couple of early tries. They come back at us but the defence holds out for an unlikely win. We do then, however, get smashed by Ireland (again). Then I wake up.

      1. It’ll be interesting to see what team Samoa brings to the RWC. They were hugely impressive in their defeat to NZ but were much poorer in the PNC. Fiji tore their defence apart in the final, and Samoa too often relied on their ability to bully their PNC rivals up front without showing too much guile out wide.

        That’s not surprising given that they rarely fielded more than half a dozen starters from the NZ game and the squad probably had about a dozen in total. I can see why the lure of playing against NZ in Apia in the off season might get more players turning out with their clubs permission than Samoa can get access to during the RWC. A front row without Census Johnstone, James Johnstone or Mulipola is much less intimidating and a backline without the Pisi brothers lost a lot of its unpredictability.

        It would be sad if Samoa can’t field their strongest side, but Scotland would have beaten the Samoan side who played in the PNC with something to spare.

  7. Like most others, I have to work really hard to suppress my lunatic pre-tournament optimism. So I will reserve judgment until after the warm up games. If we do well in those, then that’s my cue to trigger lunatic optimisim again, as per the run up to this year’s 6 Nations after our performances in the AIs………
    Any news on the fitness of Dunbar and Bennett?

    1. The Times ran a recent article that said Scott ad Bennett have already returned to full contact training and will be available for all warm up games. Dunbar is cautiously confident of being fit and may be able to take part in the last warm up game.

      1. Thanks, FF. Sounds encouraging about Scott and Bennett, and fingers crossed that Dunbar can make it in time. I’m sure the management won’t take unnecessary risks with him as he continues his return to full match fitness.

  8. A lot of rugby to be played before we even get to the pool games. Who knows what players will be available come the time. Is there a captain among them? A good old fashioned lead by example captain.

    I have to (reluctantly) agree , JB , but what a gamble.

  9. South Africa now lost 7 out of 11 since November, just been beaten at home by Argentina in Durban.
    Hmmmmmm, will our improvement overlap their decline?
    Will they be a Crisis Clinic at RWC2015?
    Our group is starting to look wide open.

    1. Hmm certainly shows chinks in their armour and I’ll bet BVC has the lads pouring over the tapes to figure out how it’s done. Encouraging to see that they aren’t at their dominant best and even the Argies can beat them (in SA too!). They are still overwhelming favourites but at least we and the lads can take some hope from it

      1. Also Jean de Villiers looked well off the pace after returning from injury. Does not look match fit. I hope the management team take note and do not risk Dunbar unless they’re 110% sure he’s ok to play.

  10. The pool of the Wooden Spoons. Some other countries must be looking on with envy at not being in ours lol

    As a side note the Quallabies deserved every part of their victory over the ABs and in the pool of death the stakes just keep ramping up

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion