Scotland will be hoping their fortunes are on an upswing coming into this rugby world cup. Under the experienced coach, Andy Robinson, their form this year has been encouraging – narrow six nations losses to England and Ireland and victory over Italy in a solid though unspectacular season, followed by even more success in the warm up matches as Scotland defeated Ireland, and Italy again.
Scotland’s strength is in their forward pack, where they have a sturdy front row, a rising second row star in Richie Gray, and destructive back rowers like Brown, Barclay, Hines and Vernon. The three halfbacks are all experienced heads but are they past their best? At outside half, coach Robinson has a choice to make between the experience of Dan Parks or the running talents of Ruaridh Jackson. Further out, Robinson will be hoping his backline can spark themselves into form against teams such as Romania and Georgia before they meet the larger challenges of Argentina and England, as their 2011 try-scoring record is not prolific.
Scotland’s group will be a challenge as the “minnows”of Romania and Georgia are tough physical sides; Georgia in particular have a forward pack who play mostly at the top level of French domestic competition, as well as a former Scotland coach at their head who will know what to expect of the Scots.
After these two challenges, the Pumas of Argentina must be beaten if Scotland are to make it past the group stages. If all of those three challengers are conquered (and if England have also beaten Argentina), then Scotland will be able to go into their final group match against England in the relative comfort of knowing they have qualified. If any of those outcomes are not as desired for Scotland – a desperate challenge against their fiercest rivals awaits. The second best qualifier from Scotland’s group can expect to face the All Blacks in their quarterfinal, while the top qualifier may have the equally daunting challenge of France at that stage.
Props: Allen Jacobson, Alisdair Dickenson, Geoff Cross, Euan Murray, Moray Low
Hookers: Ross Ford, Dougie Hall, Scott Lawson
Locks: Alastair Kellock (C), Richie Gray, Nathan Hines, Jim Hamilton
Flankers: Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Ross Rennie, Alasdair Strokosch
No. 8s: Richie Vernon
Halfbacks: Rory Lawson, Chris Cusiter, Mike Blair
Flyhalves: Dan Parks, Ruaridh Jackson
Centres: Graeme Morrison, Joe Ansbro, Nick de Luca
Outside backs: Chris Paterson, Rory Lamont, Sean Lamont, Simon Danielli, Max Evans
2011 results (most recent first): W, W, W, L, L, L, L. 5th in the 6 Nations.
Tries in 2011: 6 tries in 5 matches in the 6 Nations. 3 tries in 2 Rugby World Cup warm up matches.
Main goal kickers: Paterson, Parks, Jackson.