A fourth-place finish in 1991 is the only time Scotland have gone beyond the last eight in eight attempts.
Cast your mind back to 2015. Who could forget that controversial 80th-minute Australian penalty which denied Scotland a place in the last-four against Argentina? With rain pouring down unabated, I still get cold sweats from that emotional day.
Since then, the Scotland Rugby Team have been a mystery for all. This is a team who came second-top on try-scoring and yet second-bottom of this year’s Six Nations. So, with the match against Japan rapidly approaching, how are the Scots approaching this World Cup, and what chance have they got of going all the way to the final?
Let’s start by examining the teams who sit in the same pool as the Scots. Shortly, they will play their opening match against Ireland, who are currently ranked third in the world. Despite this challenge, Ireland have fared poorly in previous World Cups and never progressed beyond the quarter-finals. The Scots will also face Samoa, Russia and the fan-favourite hosts, Japan, (on the last day of pool play and who will be cashing in on their home-match perks). This is the last game of the pool stages and it essentially a bonus quarter-final to warm us up for the knock-outs. Furthermore, the runner-up of Pool A will face defending champions, New Zealand, in the final 16 and, if there are no upsets, there is no way of Scotland avoiding them.
Despite the list of challenges Scotland face, we know they can score against virtually any defence. In the last three years, the Scots have defeated every top team in the table, except for the Springboks and a close encounter with the All Blacks. Despite these moments of brilliance, they have also lost to all the Tier 1 World Cup contenders, including a shock loss to the USA last summer. On top of this, their almost-perfect home record is a complete contrast to their away match history, with hardly a win in sight, except in Rome last year.
So, a tournament that has always seemed an age away is suddenly looming large. What can we expect from the Scots then? If all goes well, they will make the quarter-finals, then the rest is fate. Scotland play great attacking rugby, but right now it seems that’s all they can do.
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