Scotland will again face Ireland in the group stages of the Rugby World Cup with the draw for rugby’s showcase tournament taking place today.
While the headlines will go to host nation France and New Zealand facing off again in Pool A, the draw is a tough ask for Gregor Townsend’s men – who will likely face the winner of that pool even if they get out of the group in second.
While Ireland have struggled to find a post Joe Schmidt identity (in the same way Wales are struggling after Gatland), even with the ageing Johnny Sexton at the reins they are masters of the sort of grim rugby that gets teams on in tournaments. In real terms this probably means Scotland will get a couple of decent results in the year before and once again think we’ll knock their old tough nuts over with some stylish tries, before being snuffed out of the game. See also, 2019, and last weekend.
South Africa are currently something of an unknown prospect having sat out the Rugby Championship this year due to Covid, but with the amount of SA-born lads in the Scotland squad at the moment not likely to change in a couple of year, it will at least mean less hard work to find a story angle for the Springbok rugby journos.
Making up the pool will be Europe 2 (currently Spain on rankings) and Asia/Pacific 1 which could end up being Samoa, who have also been regular World Cup opponents for Scotland.
Following the draw, head coach Gregor Townsend said: “I believe it’s the toughest pool. On current world rankings, Ireland are ranked fifth, South Africa are ranked first and they’re the world champions, and we’re ranked seventh, so all three are in the top 8 in the world which means it’s going to be very competitive.
“I feel very honoured to have been given that (contract) extension. I love working with this group of players and the staff we have, and it does get you looking forward to a big tournament. Every four years the World Cup just gets bigger and bigger for our sport, so it’s something to look forward to.
We obviously have big tournaments every year with the 6N but there is that long-term focus of developing a team and a squad that can play it’s best rugby in 2023.”
It will be third time that Scotland will face either side at the World Cup, but all the players involved may become even more familiar with each other due to the planned expansion of the Pro14/16 competition to include South African provinces, which Townsend can only see benefits from.
““Any competition that gets our players playing closer to international rugby will help their development. If those four South African teams who have been used to playing Super Rugby come into our competition that will enhance the Pro14/16 and also give experience of a different style of rugby in different conditions that South Africa bring.”