Scotland’s men have been on an upwards trajectory since the spring’s Six Nations. Alexandra Bullard discusses what awaits them this autumn.
It's hard to believe it's less than a year until the 2019 Rugby World Cup starts in Japan. It seemed only yesterday when the world witnessed the Scotland International Rugby squad being robbed of a well-deserved victory against the Wallabies by one Craig Joubert in the quarter-finals during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. But let us not dwell on the past. Since that pivotal match, Scotland has climbed up the World Rankings to 6th place (as of June 2018), defeated France and Wales for the first time in a decade, won their first opening Six Nations round in 11 years, showcased a lively yet close performance against New Zealand, and, who could forget, triumphed against England at BT Murrayfield this year.
Those who have watched Scotland over the years - if they were honest - would not have expected how far this team would have come in the past 12 months. With these previous performances, Scotland appears to have entered a new era of international rugby. And with the upcoming Autumn International Tests, Scotland will be looking for three out of three wins as a warm-up to the 2019 Six Nations. This means defeating Fiji, Argentina and a much improved South Africa, who recently stunned New Zealand in Wellington by winning 34-36. All of which begs the question: can the Scots face the pressure and produce three consecutive wins at home?
Some people are skeptical. Scotland didn’t exactly have a sublime summer tour, losing their first match to the United States. However, they quickly rectified this and produced a stunning performance against Argentina the following week. This goes to show that Scotland still has a few surprises up its sleeve. On top of this, it was recently announced that Glasgow Warrior’s Stuart Hogg would not be competing in the Autumn Internationals after undergoing surgery on his ankle. The full-back, out for an estimated 10-12 weeks, is one of Scotland’s key players and his absence may have an effect on the overall team performance.
On the other hand, most fans would say that Scotland has every chance of winning all three games. Earlier in the year, the Scots displayed their best ever performance in the Six Nation’s Championship and finished above England in the final table for the first time since 2006. What’s more, new players George Horne, Adam Hastings and Blair Kinghorn have added a sense of flair to the team with their impressive performances during the Summer Tests. No wonder the Scotland fans are excited, especially as the South Africa fixture has completely sold out.
Scotland’s first meet is with Fiji and in order to produce a winning start, they need to be quietly confident and prove to their critics that they are strong enough to go up against the best.