Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Who should lead Scotland in the World Cup?

John Barclay
John Barclay scores for Scotland vs Australia - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography Photo Credit: Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Somewhat luckily for your correspondent, there are only three or four likely candidates to lead the Scotland squad during this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan. Of course it might take even less time if it were clear cut like England under Martin Johnson, or New Zealand under Richie McCaw, but choice is what makes us “free”, right?

The First on the Team Sheet: Stuart McInally

Record as captain: W1 L2 D1 (4)

They say your captain should be an automatic pick, otherwise he’s keeping someone better out just by virtue of being in charge. Of my leading candidates, Stuart “Rambo” McInally is the only one who is nailed on as a starter for the Ireland game given his form over the last two years. He has also been captain of both Edinburgh and Scotland (for more than one match).

Fraser Brown was coming back hard with some good late-season form at the business end of the pro season (when McInally would have been on holiday), but his late injury will affect progress in that regard. Brown is all but certain to travel, but will need to force his way into contention during the tournament in order to edge out Rambo.

McInally is a “lead by example” type of captain, who will punch holes with ball in hand rather than shouting and screaming, but that sort of example so far has been pretty good. As befits his win/loss ratio, he must bear some responsibility for both halves of the 2019 Calcutta Cup draw, good and bad.

There is an argument that he be allowed to focus on the basics of his game which can be truly excellent, rather than worry about the captaincy too much.

Greig Laidlaw plans with his troops - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography
Greig Laidlaw plans with his troops – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

The Talker: Greig Laidlaw

Record as captain: W17 L20 D0 (37)

Greig is the most experienced leader Scotland has in the current group. While that carries with it some emotional scars, to some extent he has assumed the role of “troubleshooter” in recent years; either filling in from the bench or taking over as the starter mid-tournament when Plan A isn’t working. The main captain at the last World Cup, he will want to stop his abiding memory of the tournament being Craig Joubert’s back disappearing up the tunnel.

Dispossessed of the captain’s armband after injury in 2017, Greig has come back to fitness to play a role in 2019 as the Yoda of the squad. He’ll be in Japan, and he’ll likely be in the 23, but will he be the captain?

A great reader of the game, arguments still rage as to whether he should be in the side just for his game management when Scotland often go missing in this regard – which is similar to the argument about sticking someone in the team just because they are a good skipper.

Add that aspect of his game in with his goal-kicking though and the positives do start to balance, if not outweigh, the lack of attacking threat from the base and swiftness of play.

You can also bet that now everyone has decided he offers no threat and won’t play quickly, Greig will stick something special up his sleeve for what is likely to be his last World Cup.

The Commander: John Barclay

Record as captain: W9 L5 D0 (14)

Despite the relative uptick in Scotland successes of late, John Barclay is the only skipper of the three with a winning record, and a half-decent one at that.

He appeared in the 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cups – the only squad member to have experienced a World Cup other than the last one – but was in the wilderness during 2015 despite making the wider training squad almost against expectation.

Taking over from Greig as captain in 2017, he led the team that year and through the 2018 Six Nations tournament before injury did for him in turn.

The way he led the team against Wales in 2017 and England in 2018 are the sort of captain’s performances we need to see. Four of those in the pool games and we’re on the way.

Barclay’s problem is that his levels of consistency are not always that high. Several referees (Gauzere and Wayne Barnes) haven’t seen eye to eye with him in the past on the breakdown, although he commands respect in general and seems more assured than Greig in his dealings with officials.

He’s also in the most competitive area of the squad, the back row. Back in 2017/18 it looked like the team heading to Japan would be Barclay, Watson + AN Other. That is less certain now with younger lads like Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury or wildcards like Blade Thomson pushing for inclusion and all able to play 6.

Still, he’d be my pick if he’s in the team.

Scotland Rugby World Cup Kit
Who will be Scotland captain? – pic courtesy SRU/Macron

Bonus Pick – The Heart on the Sleeve Captain: Stuart Hogg

Record as captain: W0 L1 D 0 (1)

If you want passion and a little bit of fire from your skipper, Stuart Hogg is the man. Hogg, of course, is nailed on to start so fulfils Rule #1 but has had less success as a captain, certainly at international level where his record is a sole loss to the, um , USA in Houston which is why he’s not one of the three leading candidates.

Exeter Chiefs’ new signing has no shortage of passion but perhaps lacks the leadership credentials despite being a common pick as vice-captain and one of the senior figures in the squad.

Basing my knowledge of Japanese culture almost entirely on Snipes/Connery movie Rising Sun (and Banderscotch), Hoggy might be a bit full-on for a polite culture such as Japan and could be a risk guiding Scotland through a pool riddled with banana skins.

Some more rank outsiders – Ryan Wilson, Grant Gilchrist

Who would be your pick?

UPDATE: News today also that four players: Nick Grigg, Kyle Steyn, Henry Pyrgos and Gary Graham have been released from the World Cup training squad back to their clubs. That takes it down to a 40-man group.

69 Responses

  1. I think 3 of the 4 will get a chance to captain Scotland this tournament. Barclay for me should be the captain of the 1st choice XV. He is the best player in his position (albeit, Jamie Ritchie is the future of the number 6 jersey in my opinion) and commands the respect of his team mates.
    McInally will probably captain against Samoa or Russia with Laidlaw the reverse. I suspect Barclay will start against Ireland and Japan and cover the bench against Samoa but I think we need to front up against them with Fagerson or Ritchie at 6 as both are better one on one tacklers against those big super humans.

    Hoogy won’t get to lead but will be a vice captain every time he plays. He organises the backline so effectively and his communication skills have immensely improved over the years.

    The final 31 will be so hard to pick but you have to assume that fit and able, the 4 names above will be there, along with Watson, Russell, Price and Nel as the other shoe ins. The rest is a close call.

    Another outside best for captaincy mentioned above is Ryan Wilson, I don’t think he’ll even make the squad with the level of competition he faces.

    1. Not sure Nel is as much of a shoe in as a couple of years ago. A fully fit Fagerson will push him hard for the starting spot.

      1. I agree Al, for me Fagerson offers a far better workrate around the park & is debatably more powerful at scrum-time now.

      2. I think he’ll take all 6 props, unless one of them can step up to play either side of the scrum, which I don’t believe is the case (at test level). So both Nel and Fagerson are “nailed on”, as is Berghan.
        We also need 3 hookers, which leaves just 9 spots assuming an 18-13 split.
        Given Sam Skinner and 2 of the 3 hookers can play back row, Toonie may even take all 5 locks (including Skinner). I doubt it though. For me Ben Toolis is the unlucky one.
        With Barclay and Watson almost guaranteed, that means 3 from Bradbury, Fagerson, Ritchie, Strauss, Thomson and Wilson. Wilson will go just for his ability to annoy the Irish. I’d take Bradbury and Thomson for versatility.

      3. I still think Nel is our best scrummaging option. Fagerson is going to be a bull but may have to be patient if Nel performs well in the warm up matches.
        Happy to disagree, thats why we have these forums….

      4. This will probably get cut for being off topic and should also probably go in the 12 things you didnt know about Simon Bergan thread, but According to his Scotland squad Bio, Simon Bergan can scrummage on either side of the pack!!!!!!! Who Knew!

  2. Barclay, if he’s fully fit.

    Interesting just reading about some players being released back to their clubs. Steyn and Grigg back to Glasgow. Pyrgos back to Edinburgh and Graham back to Newcastle. Still a few more to come out before the trip to Japan.

    Bit surprised at Steyn. thought he might have been capped over the summer. I guess the good news is its Glasgow’s gain for the start of the season and for Scotland the other wingers and centres must be fit and looking good in training.

    1. Ah well… perhaps Turncoat can go join Eddie & his rising sons.

      So that leaves Centres of Johnson, Taylor, Jones, Hutchinson, Horne and … Wonderboy himself Chris Harris.

      1. Wonderboy has blagged a move to Gloucester. He must have a brilliant agent. I cannot decide if Cipriani will improve him or show how out his depth he is.

  3. Big Al, 100% agree re Steyn, he adds a physicality to the team, must mean that Taylor is 100% fit & firing. Personally I’d have Steyn in the squad above Harris & Hutchinson.
    Most interesting viewing next weekend for me will be Blade Thompson

    1. I think the centres will be Taylor and Johnson for inside centre and Hutchinson and Jones for outside centre.

      1. Obviously the captain will not play every minute of every game, so there will be two, if not three or four, captains. Barclay should be the “named” captain with McInally and Laidlaw as vice captains.
        I think the versatility and experience of Pete Horne will trump Hutchinson and Harris’s claim to the last centre berth. Johnson, Jones and Taylor taking the other 3.
        The interesting picks are in the back 3. Hogg is nailed on but then perm 3 from the 5 of Kinghorn, Graham, Maitland, McGuigan and Seymour.
        They are all great on their day. Personally I’d take Kinghorn, Graham and Maitland. A blend of form, experience and versatility.

      2. Agreed Scrummo.

        France in the 6N dealt Horne’s chances a massive blow imo. Proved he can’t step in at 10 and run the show whereas previously the biggest thing he had going for him was his versatility.

        I’d take those 4 who all offer more in other areas than Horne and rely on Laidlaw, Hogg or even Hutchinson to cover 10 off the bench in a crisis situation.

        Keep Horne close by as first reserve.

  4. I think Barclay should be captain providing he is performs well enough to be first choice in his position, then McInally, i do not want Laidlaw near the captains Jersey.

    My bolter for captain of one of the smaller pool games would be J.Gray or Gilchrist

  5. I reckon of the boys to miss out Ritchie, Kinghorn, Strauss will be the most high profile. Its Wilson or Fagerson for the remaining back row slot. Fraser Brown is a good option for the back row in an emergency.
    Seymour, Maitland, Hogg &Graham should be the back 3 options

    1. Yeah – I think one of Strauss or Thomson has to go for experience. Was at Saracens when they demolished Glasgow this year and as good as Matt Fagerson is going to be, he’s still a kid, and Bradbury really isn’t much older.

  6. Barclay was only able to play a handful of club games iirc at the end of last season after that long injury lay-off. You could argue he’ll be fully refreshed and ready to return to full-on RWC Test rugby now.
    On the other hand, at 32 (33 during the RWC), and after so many years of toil in the back-row, it’s likely that Toonie and team will be monitoring his fitness and form closely in the hope that he really is back to his best. And if he is, then he’s the first choice 6 for me in the big group games – not necessarily as captain though.

    I thought Bradbury really came of age in the 2019 Six Nations and I’d like to see him on that plane to Japan.

  7. McInally – he is nailed on for playing, which I am not convinced either Barclay or Greeg are – he is also a right charming, educated and well spoken lad – which Greeg and Barclay are as well, but they have a bit more of the devil in them. I always find Rambo calm, measured and calculated in his conversations with a ref, and the most likely to be there long term etc, the education of a WC would be great for him leading the team on for the next 5 years which you realistically aren’t going to get from the other two likely candidates.

    1. Good plan, use the RWC to develop players for the next RWC. Jesus pick the best man and that’s Barclay or Laidlaw. Agree above that Kimghorn and Ritchie will miss out and it has to be Fagerson over Wilson all day

      1. It’s an additional education as opposed to “development” McInally has been playing for Scotland for years and captain of Edinburgh just as reference for you.

    2. Yup. For me Stuart as well. Calm, modest and intelligent guy. Barclay needs to concentrate on getting back to full speed first. Greg and him as vice captains. The one instance Hogg was captain, it felt like it was all a bit too much for him???

      1. I think he was kinda screwed over & Townsend underestimated USA though.

        Young team with no real experience or leadership to back Hogg up.

  8. For me the 1st choice team is becoming clearer & i would have Mcinally as captain, (with Barcs on the bench)

    I would like to see Townsend develop the sides power game up front as this is something we have often been criticised for, we have always been told we dont have ball carriers…

    So lets see a pack that can prove the doubters wrong against powerful teams such as France & Georgia.

    Lets try out a backrow of Fagerson/Bradbury/Watson, not the biggest in size but certainly the most powerful, add in Zander & Skinner somewhere & i think we could have an extremely threatening pack.



    1. Yes I agree with this. Skinner as an athletic second row rather than a 6. Plenty of power, speed and ball handling ability with Bradbury, Fagerson and Watson with Blade Thomson hopefully providing cover for both 6 and 8 and a good lineout option.

  9. McInally all day long and Barclay in his absense. You could see both being officers in the armed forces. Laidlaw has nothing to prove as a captain. Hogg, dont be daft. A specialist, best suited to doing his own thing. Will get wound up by referees and opposition wide boys.

    1. It would be interesting to know how many fullbacks for Teir 1 nations there have been & there win %, i think it is the worst position to influence the ref from.

      1. Good position to size up what the opposition are up to, but he would need to phone his forwards. My point is a captain needs influencing skills wherever his position.

  10. Another vote for Rambo here – like his demeanor and personality, then Barclay. Not whinging Greg thanks, and Hogg ain’t bright enough.

    Is Ritchie really likely to miss out? Superb athlete, I’d have him in all day long. Skinner, Wilson, Thomson, Bradbury aren’t as good.

    In the backs i’d leave out McGuigan, P.Horne and reluctantly Kinghorn. He won’t leave out Seymour and you can’t leave out Darcy Graham. Unlike many I have no problem with Harris, he’s versatile and liked the look of him playing for Newcastle. He’s a very hard tackler, looks can deceive.

    1. Also voting McInally and reluctantly think Kinghorn will miss out unless there’s any sensible way to take Maitland, Graham, Seymour, Kinghorn?

  11. Also, what’s with Gordon Reid, who may we’ll be going to the WC, singing for semi-pro Ayr where there’s a cap of 12k a year? I know he’s a home-bird but he apparently was offered contracts in France. Seems a lot to write-off just to stay at home.

  12. I really thought the rise of Steyn and the return of fitness for Taylor would rule Harris out completely. Steyn going home likely means that if Taylor doesn’t perform then Harris is on the plane.

    Thinking the 31 will look like this:

    15: Hogg
    11/14: Graham, Maitland, Seymour
    13: Jones, Hutchinson
    12: Johnson, Taylor
    10: Russell, Hastings
    9: Price, Horne, Laidlaw
    8: Bradbury, Fagerson
    7: Watson
    6: Barclay (c) , Wilson
    5/4: Gray, Skinner, Gilchrist, Toolis
    3: Fagerson, Nel, Berghan
    2: McInally (vc), Brown, Turner
    1: Dell, Bhatti, Reid

    Unlucky to miss out:
    Ritchie, P. Horne, Kinghorn

    1. I’d agree with at least 29 of that squad, my exception being for Thomson over an unlucky Fagerson (not least because we desperately need another lineout option at No. 8). Whether Townsend goes with Hutchinson over Kinghorn remains to be seen…I guess it depends on whether he sees Russell shifting outside Hastings in a pinch and whether he sees Taylor also covering the back three positions.

      1. Ritchie over Wilson.
        Possibly Kinghorn over Seymour and good to see Thomson get some game time and see how he fairs. Big question mark over Taylor being asked to return to top level rugby after such a long absence so hopefully he to can get some successful game time in the upcoming internationals. With relatively healthy competition for places the warm up games could be played at a quite high tempo and fingers crossed for injury free games.

      2. Zero chance GT will cut Maitland or Seymour.
        Kinghorn, Graham and McGuigan fighting for the other backline spot.

        back row is a tough call…
        Watson..our best 7
        Barclay experience, adaptability leadership…they are certs.
        Wilson is a GT favorite…BUT.. is he better player than Fagerson Ritchie Bradbury Thompson?? …+ considering Skinner is a cert 2nd row with 6 ability. Strauss is cert going to get cut imo.

        Will GT go with 5 props..and cut Reid?

    2. Pretty much agree with your picks. I would find a way of taking Jamie Ritchie though.

      Don’t know about Rory Hutchinson, big call to take a non cap in the place of a known seasoned campaigner over Pete Horne (who also can act as a third 10). Will super Dunc stay fit? If so and assuming his form is anything like he has shown in the past then he has to go.

      Hard on Kinghorn but I think it’s fair, Darcy Graham won that shirt as his own in the 6N. I think it really depends whether Toonie wants a “proper” reserve 15, if he views Maitland as fitting that criteria then Kinghorn won’t go. He has put the faith in Maitland before at 15 so I would expect him to do so again.

  13. Bazz – that squad will be about right with one omission (Blade Thomson). – He is a good quality NZ back row (which suggests he is very good) he received good press at the Scarlets & he has been @ the training camp & will be given game time shortly. IMO he offers more (in an 8 ball carrying / offloading sense) than anyone

  14. With 4 matches against physical sides , I think we are getting ahead of ourselves on squad.
    Pound to a penny there are 2or 3 players injured badly enough not to travel to Japan in the next 4 weeks
    We might yet see Big Richie or Wee Nick on the plane

  15. I have the same 31 as Bazz, but agree Thomson is the guy who could force his way in at the expense of Fagerson or Bradbury. just depends will Thomson be able to show the form his press deserves or will Fagerson be on it like he was at the end of the season. exciting either way. J Gray can also captain. I think Barclay could be used more as a back up 7 to Watson rather than 6. Another point Huw Jones played a lot at 12 for the stormers which seems to be forgotten now. would not be surprised to see Taylor start at 12 with Jones at 13 and then see Jones move inside to 12 and Hutchinson play at 13 off the bench against France.

      1. I don’t think Jones ever played 12 at Super rugby level, only currie cup. He also was not generally in stormers starting line up for Super rugby, almost all of his appearances were off the bench. I think in his final season they usually started Juan de Jongh and de Allende though my super rugby knowledge isn’t great.

      2. Im pretty sure Jones and Hutchinson could get the job done against Russia and let Taylor and Johnson rest for the Japan game.

  16. Off topic but the Irish defence looked good in the game against Italy today. I hope Toony and co have worked out a way to break them down. Very boring team to watch though.

    1. To be fair, Italy were utterly hopeless in attack. I couldn’t believe how often they kept kicking the ball back to Ireland.

  17. Completely off topic, so apologies, but if anyone is thinking of going to Georgia and hasn’t decided yet, I would completely recommend it – Georgia is a great country to visit, brilliant food, Tbilisi is a superb place to go out and the Georgians love anyone who makes the effort to go there. It is easy to get up to the mountains and they are mind blowing.

    This game will be a big event for them – I’ve been for both the Scotland football games over there and would say the locals are more interested in rugby. I think we will be the first of the “big” countries to play there so it will be important to the Georgians.

    Driving is horrendous though – our driver was very good, a family guy so safe, if anyone would like his contact details, please comment and I’ll post them.

  18. This is an unique time in Scottish International rugby for a few reasons:

    1. Almost a completely fully fit squad to choose from. This is unlikely to last through all four warm-ups but you’d hope we weren’t in real peril in any position by the end of that.

    2. The best squad we’ve ever assembled arguably for depth and quality in the first 15. Other countries are better on paper now but every team is more professional, fitter, better organised than 20-30 years ago. Hard to compare eras but I think this Scotland team would put huge holes in previous successful teams of the past. Maybe mentally they are not as strong yet due to the scars but we have belief just not belief that comes from winning all the time. A huge step in that area is a win in France so that is a hugely important game for years to come should we win.

    3. We aren’t playing any of the big Southern Hemisphere hitters in the pool stages. When did that ever happen? Kevin? That could be seen as an issue as we’re almost guaranteed to see them in quarters should we progress. But it doesn’t seem like New Zealand are invincible or unbeatable like they’ve shown in past. I’d almost rather have them in quarters. We have the most belief against them (being so close last time) that we’ve had in decades.

    4. You could argue that at least 8 teams can win this competition this time out. It’s hugely competitive. I think we’ll see shocks in the quarters and therefore real surprises in the semis. Why can’t Scotland be one?

    1. Well – up to a point Referendum. 1 is fair enough, but we’ve got four matches to play before getting on the plane to Japan; 2 I’m not so sure – the 1991 squad was pretty good and had a track record of success that this generation can’t yet match; 3 – in the pool stages we met SA in 99 and 15 and NZ in 07 – we’ve had France as often (and never beaten them). We’ve also only topped our group once (91) in all that time which doesn’t help when it comes to QF (not sure 1st or 2nd makes any difference this time though); 4 you could – and I’d love to think we are among those 8 – but I’m not sure I’d spread the net quite as wide – we need to beat someone big in QF definitely to get close, but we first of all will need to beat Japan playing for life changing glory in front of their home crowd and on past history while the team has the talent I’m not sure I’d stake my mortgage on that if it’s at all close with ten minutes to go.

      1. I’d say based on form and history and mentality we are the 8th team who are slightly behind the other 7 who are just that bit ahead. Yet we have shown how close we are and we are not throwing in the towel. We do need to start winning some more of the tight affairs that we lose and no time like the World Cup for that.

  19. The faces of Scottish Rugby is changing at pace and in four years it is almost unrecognisable. I’m sure they’ll be some stats, articles coming out comparing 2015 to now but there are players who are still playing who are fit but have fallen off a cliff and others who I didn’t think would still be about.

    We now see those who started Autumn Internationals in 2018 and Six Nations 2019 now out of the squad already and unlikely to see the plane or get a place in the luggage hold. Grigg is gone and rightly or wrongly started six nations matches. Dunbar is nowhere to be seen. Barring injury who would have said that 4 years ago? He was put up to the media as the 2018 autumn matches approached. Horne Senior could be gone when he was a key cog in so many recent Scotland incarnations. Barclay is a key player now and is surely going yet he was nowhere to be seen in 2015. There was no way I thought Laidlaw would still be around in 2019 but he is. Huw Jones although not as on fire as a year or so ago wasn’t even known about in 2015. Bennet isn’t even considered as his dive to put Scotland in the lead with minutes to go against Australia looks to be his last iconic moment. Who would have guessed that 4 years ago? We’re now entering what could be seen as an English or French type of era where people could get a few caps then never be considered again. We have so many options so many talented players and hopefully a mentality that will endure and help us get close to winning trophies.

    1. I dunno…I can really see a big portion of this squad making our 2023 WC which I find quite exciting. For every senior player we have there’s an incumbent who has already been capped and in some cases may already be first choice.

      Nel > Fagerson
      R.Gray > Skinner
      Barclay > Ritchie
      Strauss > Fagerson
      Wilson > Bradbury
      Laidlaw > Horne
      Horne > Johnson
      Taylor > Hutchinson
      Maitland > Kinghorn
      Seymour > Graham

      With Hogg, Russell, Watson and Mcinally still having a few good years ahead I can see a stable and relatively successful WC cycle ahead.

    2. I don’t disagree with that yet if u check back many said the same 4 years ago regarding who would be around now ands it hasn’t turned out as we would have expected for many of those guys who were either promising or nailed on starters back then.

  20. Japan have been looking worryingly good for a ‘tier 2 side’ crushing pretty much every side they have come up against so far.

    I would suggest looking at the highlights from world rugby for there past few matches.

    1. Boris, Japan at home will be extremely difficult to beat. They will be playing with such high tempo and focus. It’s going to be tough to make the top 2. We will be to play at our very best to have any chance of qualifying.

      1. Yeah, they’re a great team to watch and a very serious challenge at home. Convincingly beat Fiji away and humped Tonga. They are going to be pumped for the tournament too. I don’t consider them a potential banana skin as much as a significant hurdle.

      2. Japan’s recent victory over Fiji was in Kamaishi Japan.

        The RWC organisers have done their best to present the QF to japan on a plate – they play every match with more rest days than their opponent, and have 8 days prep ahead of our likely-decider match compared to our 3, so home advantage is being doubled down on.

        The only upside is by mid-October when we play them in Yokohama the sting will have been taken out of the fabled heat and humidity and we’ll be kicking off quite late in the evening.

        Japan are very well drilled and they have stacked their team with foreigners so they no longer suffer a size disadvantage. But they showed vulnerability up front against Fiji and we should have a much better tight 5 and more talented individuals. We simply have to neutralise their exceptional back row and avoid giving away cheap turnovers.

      3. Thanks for the correction FF. Thought it was reported as an away win, but must have got the wrong end of the stick. Wish I shared your confidence for the pool game win though.

      4. I’m not confident of beating Japan! I think we’re a better team with better personnel but mentally quite weak and very inconsistent so ripe for a home win in front of a pulsating crowd. Our pack needs to step up big time – I think they were generally poor in the 6N but we shouldn’t really fear the Japan team.

      5. Do folks not remember the struggle we had with Japan when we toured there? Laidlaw came on to rescue a win with some solid kicking when we were getting hammered at least on the pitch if not on the score board. I think that tour will serve us well for this tournament for both knowing the climate we have to contend with but also the team of Japan we have to face. I had hoped they had regressed since then but from what folks are saying it seems they haven’t? Beating Ireland could be the key to our passage through catching them by surprise….

  21. We’ll have to play the best rugby Scotland has ever played to reach the latter stages and compete. We’ll have to go up a level from last time out because everyone else will be looking to do that.
    It is so tight there are about 8 teams that could win it this time around and I wouldn’t bet money against anyone.
    Japan will no doubt target the Scotland match as the clearest opportunity to progress to the next stage. Id imagine they’ll play their 1st choice against us and rotate v ireland.

    Should we progress ….99.9 % likely Sth Africa or NZ in QF is about worst/toughest draw we could have had

    1. Just checking , is progressing 99.9% , or are you giving , Italy , Namibia or Canada a statistical chance

    2. Disagree. If Japan are going to target anyone, it will be the loser of our opener against Ireland. They will perceive the loser to be the inferior side and the one to target. It could be us, but I sincerely hope not.

      1. They have no need to target any game in particular – they have at least a week between all their matches and they will deal with Russia in their opening game without breaking a sweat.

      2. Our schedule isn’t bad providing we are happy to play an entire second XV against Russia. Let’s hope we aren’t in a situation requiring PD or TD to separate teams. It will hamper preparation for Japan though as half team will be focused on Japan and half on russia.

        Ireland have their two hardest games up first, us then five days to recover and prepare for Japan. It’s quite transparently been done to give the hosts the best chance of progressing and Ireland have the worst draw – if we surprise them in the opener they have to quickly pull themselves together for a do or die match against the hosts.

        It would be great if we can make that happen.

      3. Yeah…and considering our record the last 5 years against Ireland that loser will be us.
        It might be that we have our 1st choice team available and come out and click v Ireland…but I doubt it. The Ireland team know how to stifle our game. Japan will rightfully be confident of winning the other games and will see us likely to be the decider.
        There won’t be any team ‘taking each game as it comes’ despite media statements.
        Anyone with half a brain can see approx which order teams post the most consistent threat and Scotlands ranking is a fair reflection. Scotland will have to play beyond the expectations of the other sides…which, of course, is possible. The odds on unlucky loser are pretty solid though…

      4. RuggersB what is our record over the last 5 years against Ireland? I’d guess that it is our second best record against any of the six nations teams barring Italy? Even against the odds we have beat Ireland more than the other teams I think. France might have sneeked into second recently but it’s close no?

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