Pessimism can typically appear to return a bit too naturally to Scottish rugby followers, a sure fatalism worn nearly as a badge of honour after too many days of disappointment and dejection, of squandered alternatives and questioning what might need been.
It maybe feels considerably applicable, then, for Gregor Townsend to have assembled maybe the best facet within the nation’s lengthy rugby historical past and nonetheless know a second successive World Cup pool stage effort is on the playing cards if the match goes to type. Lots has already been written concerning the lopsided draw but it surely feels significantly merciless to the Scots, inarguably among the many high 5 sides on the earth however drawn along with two of the 4 high favourites within the pool.
Townsend’s band of historical past makers have risen to new heights over these final 4 years, turning Calcutta Cup hope nearly into expectation and constructing additional by these previous couple of months. High to backside, the seemingly 23 that can start the match towards South Africa in Marseille incorporates few clear weaknesses.
And but it could not matter: Eire are having fun with their very own heady days at an all-time excessive and have a high degree that Scotland have, to this point, proved unable to match, whereas the Springboks energy recreation the apparent kryptonite for a facet that, for all its improvement, nonetheless lacks ahead may. An improved Tonga are additionally able to doing harm.
Not that Scotland will merely curse their luck and prepared themselves for one more watching transient on quarter-final weekend. The quick, agency tracks more likely to greet them through the pool levels ought to swimsuit a facet of Scottish swordsmen able to carving even the staunchest defences to items, significantly if they’ll overcome a behavior of stuttering out of the blocks.
“My hopes are clearly very excessive and my expectations of this workforce are very excessive as a result of I do know they’ll attain them,” Townsend mentioned after Scotland arrived at their match base camp in Good. “We’re centered on getting our greatest efficiency out towards South Africa.
“We’ve been speaking about that for weeks and months. It’s one cause why we went sturdy in three of our 4 (warm-up) video games. A number of what we’re doing when it comes to our recreation plan was set for South Africa, so it’s an incredible alternative to see how they go.
“We all know there’s some actual exams forward of us within the subsequent few weeks however this workforce is able to go.”
In Finn Russell, Townsend has an summary artist for instance issues, whereas Duhan van der Merwe and Darcy Graham present a thunder and lightning mixture on the wings. The set up of Huw Jones at outdoors centre throughout this 12 months’s Six Nations is additional proof of the backing the coach provides his facet to play with freedom – Chris Harris had put barely a foot improper defensively for 3 years, incomes himself a beginning Lions shirt, however has misplaced out to the additional attacking potential that Jones gives outdoors of Sione Tuipulotu.
Up entrance, Pierre Schoeman will relish a possibility to check himself within the tight towards Tadhg Furlong, Frans Malherbe and co., whereas Richie Grey is a rejuvenated determine within the second row. Townsend’s group of again row forwards make up for a scarcity of measurement with intelligence, depth and dynamism.
Townsend signed a brand new contract by to 2026 earlier this 12 months after hypothesis he could also be set for pastures new post-World Cup. The timing, in some methods, felt curious, given the toughness of the duty going through his facet in France and the probability of back-to-back group stage exits, but it surely spoke to a perception that he stays the most effective man to take this facet ahead. Can he oversee one other well-known triumph on the World Cup? A untimely departure could but come however write this Scottish facet off at your peril.
Coach: Gregor Townsend
Captain: Jamie Ritchie
Key participant: Finn Russell – Russell has clashed with Townsend up to now however the two now seem completely on the identical web page. A few waves of the magic man’s wand from fly half may be wanted.
Rising star: Rory Darge – Scotland possess a aggressive, versatile again row group, however Darge seems to have usurped Hamish Watson on the openside and gives open area agility and breakdown savvy.
Large query: Can Scotland’s pack, outmatched on paper, discover a manner towards Eire and South Africa?
Forwards: Ewan Ashman, Jamie Bhatti, Dave Cherry, Luke Crosbie, Scott Cummings, Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey, Matt Fagerson, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Richie Grey, WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie (capt.), Pierre Schoeman, Javan Sebastian, Sam Skinner, Rory Sutherland, George Turner, Hamish Watson
Backs: Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, George Horne, Ben Healy, Huw Jones, Blair Kinghorn, Ali Worth , Cameron Redpath, Finn Russell, Ollie Smith, Kyle Steyn, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Ben White
Fixtures (all instances BST):
Sunday 10 September: South Africa vs Scotland, Pool B (Marseille, 4.45pm)
Sunday 24 September: Scotland vs Tonga, Pool B (Good, 4.45pm)
Saturday 30 September: Scotland vs Romania, Pool B (Lille, 8pm)
Saturday 7 October: Eire vs Scotland, Pool B (Paris, 8pm)