The 2015 Rugby World Cup sees Scotland competing on enemy turf for the biggest prize in Rugby Union.
They will be looking to improve on their performance from 2011 where they were knocked out at the group stage having previously at least made the quarter-final stage since the inception of the Rugby World Cup in 1987. The 2011 tournament saw Scotland crash out as they lost key games against England and Argentina by the narrowest of margins, four points and one point respectively. Scotland’s best performance in a World Cup was when they finished fourth in 1991 after losing the third-place playoff to New Zealand.
The last time the World Cup was primarily held on British shores in 1999, Scotland departed at the quarter-final stage having lost to New Zealand at Murrayfield. However, when England were the primary hosts in 1991, Scotland finished fourth as mentioned above. A repeat of the 1991 tournament would breath new life into Scottish rugby after years of disappointment and underachievement. The 2007 edition of the Rugby World Cup also saw a small cluster of games held in Scotland, although Scotland were knocked out at the quarter-final stage.
However, before Scotland can dream of emulating their 1991 team or going even better they must first navigate their group. Scotland are in Pool B along with 2007 Rugby World Cup champions South Africa, Samoa and the minnows of the group Japan and the USA.
If Scotland are to progress from their group, it will be incredibly likely they will have to settle for second place behind two-time World Cup winners, South Africa. A key game in the group will be against Samoa on October 10 at St James Park. They will have to make sure they overcome Japan and the United States earlier in the group stage and hope that no team upsets the odds against South Africa. If they can win their three games in their group, then Scotland will more than likely have done enough to secure a place in the quarter-finals.
Scotland’s form in 2015 has not been too dissimilar to previous years, as they finished bottom of the Six Nations Championship after losing to Italy in Edinburgh. In fact, Scotland have only finished once above the bottom two in the last nine Six Nations Championships.
However, a more accurate reflection of Scotland’s ability can be found in their Rugby World Cup warm-up games. So far they have played three and they conclude with a game against France in Paris on Saturday night. Their first game was a defeat away to Ireland losing by six points, however, they have won their two games against Italy that followed. The margin of victory in the victory was 41 points compared to just four in Rome.
Scotland coach Vern Cotter announced his squad on September 1 with Greig Laidlaw announced as his captain. Also included in the squad were veteran hooker Ross Ford, who currently has 88 caps and will hope to add some much-needed experience to the squad during the World Cup. The player with the most caps in the squad is winger Sean Lamont of the Glasgow warriors, who at the age of 34 and with 96 caps to his name will surely mean that this is his last World Cup for Scotland having been a part of their 2007 and 2011 Rugby World Cup squads. Pro 12 Young Player of the Year Sam Hidalgo-Clyne will be hoping to impress and show that his brilliant season for Edinburgh was not a one-off.
Overall, it is hard to predict how Scotland will do at the forthcoming World Cup. If they can progress from their group alongside most likely South Africa and they get an incredibly good draw in the quarter-finals, they could emulate the success of their 1991 side. However, their game against Samoa towards the end of their group stages will prove vital to any aspirations they have, win that and they will be in good shape to progress, lose that game and it is likely that Scotland will be heading north back over the border before the knockout stages have begun.