Short on depth, strong in focus, Vern Cotter’s Scotland have made great strides since the Six Nations whitewash. The Gray brothers in the middle of a beefed up pack, Stuart Hogg causing chaos from behind – as long as they play to their potential, a runner-up spot behind South Africa should be secure.
Flower of Scotland They can take our bagpipes, but they cannot take our freedom! The Rugby World Cup’s decision to ban bagpipes has caused uproar, the decision even being questioned in parliament. Scottish rugby fans might have to take the high road in this argument and sign a cappella.
Scotland’s fly half has enjoyed a rapid rise. The last World Cup he was just beginning an apprenticeship as a stonemason. Now he’s the keystone of the Scottish attack.
Moment of glory
Things were going so well in 1991. Smashing Samoa in the quarter finals, Scotland set up an almighty grudge match against England for a place in the final. The match was tied 6-6 when Scottish kicker Gavin Hastings was given a straightforward penalty shot – and missed. “”If I could change one thing in my career, it would be putting that kick over,” he says.
Pundit’s view: Scott Hastings
Reasons to be confident?
“There’s so much experience in this squad, especially up front. Both South Africa and Samoa will be incredibly physical encounters, but I think coach Vern Cotter has forwards that can challenge them in those physical stakes. Ryan Grant and Ross Ford are a strong front row, and David Denton and Alasdair Strokosch are powerful units in the back row as well.”
Reason to worry?
“When the heat is on, Scotland’s Achilles heel is not scoring enough tries. It’s about fighting that “white line fever”, having the discipline to go through the possession and stretch the opposition. Other international teams really do it well: Ireland, New Zealand and Australia find those tries when they need them; Scotland are prone to the odd slip and poor execution.”
“The brothers Jonny and Richie Gray are going to be vitally important to Scotland’s success. I enjoyed playing with my brother Gavin, and Jonny and Richie clearly have a great understanding and a bond. The younger Jonny is almost outshining his brother Richie at the moment, yet they both bring so much to the field.”
“I think Scotland should do enough to get through their group. They are good enough to spring a few surprises. I go back to the opening day of the 2007 World Cup at the Stade de France when Argentina beat hosts France. It set that tournament alive, and that’s the beauty of sport.”