World Cup Preview: Scotland

Group B Opposition: Argentina, England, Georgia, Romania

Pedigree: Perennial quarter-finalists, never once failing to make the last eight. In 1991, they went one better, and were a Gavin Hastings shanked kick away from the final. Last time out, they nearly took Argentina from the long grass.

Players to watch: Lets be honest, this Scotland squad is pretty low on inspiration. However, that isn’t to say they are hopeless. In Richie Gray, they have a man who will be a Lion in 2 years time, and who the pack will be built around for many years to come. Sean Lamont is a rare example of a leader in Andy Robinson’s team – his criticism of his team-mates during last years 6 Nations showed he was willing to step up. Another potential Lion is Max Evans out wide.

Good Tournament: Given the amount of gloom currently hanging over them, a quarter-final would be seen as an achievement, although a 50 point demolition by the All Blacks is a dubious reward.

Bad Tournament: Giving Argentina and England decent games is the baseline, even if they get edged out in both, but if they come close to humiliation against Romania or (especially) Georgia, Scottish hearts will sink even further.

Prospects: Whiff of Cordite sat in Croker in 2010 and watched in astonishment as the Killer B’s dealt with the much-vaunted Irish back row with ease. That really should have completed a deserved Triple Crown for the Scots – a one in a million collapse against Wales and a draw against England  were both games that should have been won. Come November, when they followed it up with victory over South Africa – their second Southern Hemisphere scalp in two years – we were expecting a big 6 Nations.

But it didn’t happen. Andy Robinson took a step back and let the team take it to the next level – sink or swim time. And boy did they sink. A decent second half against a disinterested France and taking advantage of indiscipline to run Ireland close were as good as it got. At least they beat Italy, but the tournament was hugely disappointing, with the performance against Wales in Murrayfield among the worst test performances in living memory.

After that, Robbo withdrew what passes for his big guns from ML action, targetting the World Cup. Allowing for summer rustiness, a last minute win over (at best) the Ireland reserves was just better than unacceptable. Next up is Italy, then its playing the firsts into form against Romania and (gulp) Georgia. It’s eerily similar to Ireland’s preparation in 2007, and just ask Eddie how that turned out. Mind you, at least they’re skipping the Polish cryotherapy chambers and the Bayonne day trip.

This really is a make or break tournament for Scotland – they pretty much got the best draw possible, and are under pressure to take advantage of it, something they haven’t thrived under in the past. If they do blow-up, Robbo will likely head back home, and it’s back to the drawing board once more.

Verdict: Things are not looking hot. England will have too much, and Argentina should beat them in a mucky kick-fest. The real dread in Scottish hearts is what the Georgians might do to them – it’s safe to argue that Scotland have the worst scrum in Group B. If they manage to dispatch Georgia comfortably, they might just have the confidence to take on the Pumas and battle through. We don’t think it will happen though. A proud record to come to an end – out at the first hurdle.

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