Scotland: Dark Horses at the World Cup?

Scotland had a very mixed Six Nations a loss to France were offset by an impressive win over Italy and that frantic draw against England. It was hard to gauge where Scotland are under Gregor Townsend as well with many of Scotland’s star players absent for at least some of the Six Nations.

Scotland face a fairly tricky pool with Ireland, hosts Japan, physical Samoa and minnows Russia.

Scotland do have the talent, Exeter bound Stuart Hogg is an excellent player, his broken field running, siege gunner boot and playmaking brain make him one of the best fullbacks currently playing international rugby.

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Credit: Instagram (stuarthogg21)

Alongside Hogg is Racing 92 playmaker, Finn Russell. Undeniably talented, his kicking out of hand is at times laser accurate, he is also quick for a fly-half and he has a talent for unlocking doors for his midfield at both Racing 92 and for Scotland.

The other outrageous talent in their backline is former Stormers centre, Huw Jones. This man single handedly dealt England a blow last year as Scotland made England look amateur at Murrayfield. His balanced running and upper body strength allow him to ride tackles and put Scotland on the front foot.

Credit: Instagram (@hrfjones)

In the forwards there is the younger of the Gray brothers, Jonny, a stoic leader and inspirational captain. His contribution to games is best summed up by one statistic from a Glasgow match last season in which the 25 year old made 41 successful tackles and missed none. 41 tackles in one match, that requires some engine.

Openside flanker, Hamish Watson is another one of Scotland’s diamonds in the rough. Watson combines all the traditional attributes of an openside with carrying of a number eight and the work rate of a blindside. There is marked difference to Scotland when the 25-cap Edinburgh back rower is playing.

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Credit: Instagram(hamishwatson07)

Now Scotland’s biggest test in the group stage will undoubtedly be the 22nd September meeting with Six Nations rivals, Ireland in Yokohama. Last time out Ireland beat Scotland 13-22 in the Six Nations outscoring Scotland three tries to one, although the Sam Johnson try was a very well worked one.

Ireland won for two reasons, an extreme effort from the Irish duo of Peter O’Mahony (man of the match) and Jack Conan who secured Ireland safe ball whilst causing Scotland’s ruck and maul all kinds of problems. The second was that in the opening quarter they caught Scotland cold, Conor Murray and Jacob Stockdale giving Ireland a 12-3 lead inside 17 minutes before fly-half, Jonny Sexton hobbled off in the 24th minute to be replaced by the excitable Joey Carbery.

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Credit: Instagram (@joeycarbery)

Scotland’s next biggest challenge will be their last game when they play Japan on 13th October again in Yokohama. This will be a challenge for two reasons, Japan are hosts and it comes just four days after Scotland’s tie with Russia whereas Japan will have had eight days to recover from their match with Samoa.

Scotland should be wise to the challenge Japan pose, England struggled to put away Japan at Twickenham way back at the end of last year until the second half, in the end English power prevailed. Japan though will be determined to make this the year they finally make it out of the pool stages in front of a home crowd which would be almost as shocking as their brutal dismantling of South Africa in Brighton four years ago.

Whilst Samoa will pose a physical challenge Scotland are firm favourites and against Russia it’s more of a question of by how much than who will win.

How Scotland Could Line-Up Against Ireland in Yokohama

1 Allan Dell (Irish) 2 Stuart McInally 3 Simon Berghan (both Edinburgh) 4 Sam Skinner (Exeter) 5 Jonny Gray 6 Ryan Wilson (both Glasgow) 7 Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) 8 Josh Strauss (Bulls)

9 Ali Price (Glasgow) 10 Finn Russell (Racing 92) 11 Sean Maitland (Saracens) 12 Sam Johnson 13 Huw Jones (both Glasgow) 14 Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) 15 Stuart Hogg (Exeter)

16 Fraser Brown (Glasgow) 17 Jamie Bhatti 18 WP Nel 19 Ben Toolis 20 John Barclay (all Edinburgh) 20 Greig Laidlaw (Clermont) 22 Adam Hastings (Glasgow) 23 Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh)

World XV: Part Three

Our final part of our World XV, our coaches edition, to boss our fearsome forwards and our brilliant backs. We’ve picked a head coach, backs coach, forwards coach, attack & skills coach and defence coach.

Head Coach- Joe Schmidt

The Ireland head coach has transformed Ireland into the second best team in the world in a post O’Driscoll world building a squad of youthful exuberance and huge talent.

He is also the mastermind behind a very successful Leinster team, the most consistent side in European club rugby. Schmidt is possibly the best man manager in rugby and continues to defy odds with his small pool of players as Ireland continue their run of wins.

Backs Coach- Gregor Townsend

The former Glasgow boss has brought the electric attacking rugby he had there to th international arena with his Scotland side.

He seems to be getting the best out of a talented backline containing the likes of Huw Jones, Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell. Scotland look the real deal under the former fly-half, he knows how to construct an attack.

Forwards Coach- Mario Ledesma

The former Argentine hooker was the man that solved the former joke of world rugby, the Australian scrum. He’s a miracle worker and has had a fairly strong start to his tenure as Argentina head coach.

Wins over South Africa and beating Australia in their own backyard is no mean feat. Ledesma can build a very dominant pack and knows the set piece inside out.

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By Zegreg63 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11470538

Defence Coach- Shaun Edwards

The defence guru. He has become known for his ability to coach a defence. His long running partnership with Warren Gatland has taken him to the heights of domestic rugby with English side Wasps and international rugby with Wales.

Shaun Edwards is one of the best rugby minds in the world, he is certainly the man to lead our defence.

Attack & Skills Coach- Wayne Smith

The second Kiwi on the list. This man is often mooted as the mastermind behind the All Blacks efficient, slick attacking play that has made them one of the most entertaining sides in the world.

Smith is a wonderfully talented coach and the teams he has bossed always do the basics extremely well, which is vital to any team succeeding.

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By Lasersareattackingme – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61683471

So our final line-up is below.

1 Cian Healy 2 Malcolm Marx 3 Tadhg Furlong 4 Brodie Retallick 5 Maro Itoje 6 Peter O’Mahony 7 David Pocock 8 Kieran Read

9 Conor Murray 10 Beauden Barrett 11 Rieko Ioane 12 Owen Farrell 13 Jonathan Davies 14 Jacob Stockdale 15 Stuart Hogg

HC Joe Schmidt FC Mario Ledesma BC Gregor Townsend DC Shaun Edwards A&SC Wayne Smith

Let us know what you think in the comments!