Rugby World Cup 2019: Scotland team profile, pool A fixtures, squad
Gregor Townsend’s Scotland team is brave, but inconsistent
2019 Rugby World Cup
- When: 20 September to 2 November
- Where: 12 locations across Japan
- Teams: 20
- Number of matches: 48
- UK TV channel: live on ITV
Scotland boast a good Rugby World Cup record, even if it is 28 years since they last reached the semi-final.
In the eight tournaments they have only failed to make it out of the pool stage on just one occasion - in New Zealand in 2011.
But the Scots will have to hit the ground running next week if they’re to reach the quarter-finals.
Ireland are first up, on Sunday, and then they play the Samoans eight days later. The two nations clashed in 2015 and in a thriller the Scots emerged victorious 36-33. Russia are next and then Scotland’s final pool game is against Japan, who will be awkward opponents on home soil.
Be the best
“We know – and we’ve seen it – that when we play to our best we’re a match for any team in the world,” said Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.
“We’ve got a stronger squad now than we’ve ever had. To have everybody available now should mean we’ve never been in a better position over the last two or three years to play at our best.”
The trouble is it’s rare that Scotland string together two successive performances.
They’ve become a byword for inconsistency in recent seasons: take the 2018 Six Nations, for example.
They were hammered 34-7 by Wales in the opening encounter, then beat France and England, before losing comprehensively to Ireland and sneaking a two-point win over Italy.
Kings of inconsistency
They were at it again this year, swinging from the ridiculous to the sublime, as they showed in arguably the most extraordinary second-half in Six Nations history.
Trailing 31-7 to a rampant England at Twickenham - a ground where they are without a win since 1983 - Scotland produced an astonishing revival in the second half and it needed a last-gasp England try to tie the match at 38-apiece.
Yet the manner of that miraculous comeback detracted somewhat from the fact that the Scots ended the Six Nations with one win from five - and that was against the desperate Italians.
Every fly-half is vital to how his team plays but Finn Russell is Scotland’s jewel and, along with full-back Stuart Hogg, a world-class player.
Against England he was inaccurate and indecisive in the first-half and as a result the Scots lacked shape; strong words at half-time shook Russell into action, and he took his team with him.
His passing, clever kicks and vision all created space in the England defence and his duel with Jonathan Sexton in Scotland’s tournament opener against Ireland will be fascinating. It’s also fair to say that whoever comes out on top is likely to steer his side to victory.
“I need some consistency but I’m still going to keep playing the way I’m going to play,” said Russell. “I don’t believe it’s one individual that’s going to get us to the quarters or semis or final, wherever we get to.
“I think it’s going to have to be everyone on the same page.”
While Russell is searching for consistency, he’s also guarding against complacency in a group where Ireland is not the only challenge facing the Scots.
“At the World Cup, with four group games, you need to be at the top of your game to get out of the group,” he said. “I don’t want to look back and think ‘if only I did this or that differently’.”
Scotland RWC fixtures and squad
Pool A: Japan, Russia, Ireland, Scotland, Samoa
All times below are UK and matches are live on ITV.
- 20 September: Japan vs. Russia (11.45am; Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo)
- 22 September: Ireland vs. Scotland (8.45am; International Stadium, Yokohama)
- 24 September: Russia vs. Samoa (11.15am; Kumagaya Rugby Grounds, Kumagaya)
- 28 September: Japan vs. Ireland (8.15am; Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Shizuoka)
- 30 September: Scotland vs. Samoa (11.15am; Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe)
- 3 October: Ireland vs. Russia (11.15am; Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe)
- 5 October: Japan vs. Samoa (11.30am; City of Toyota Stadium, Aichi)
- 9 October: Scotland vs. Russia (8.15am; Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa, Shizuoka)
- 12 October: Ireland vs. Samoa (11.45am; Hakatanomori Football Stadium, Fukuoka)
- 13 October: Japan vs. Scotland (11.45am; International Stadium, Yokohama)
- Head coach: Gregor Townsend
- Forwards: John Barclay, Simon Berghan, Fraser Brown, Scott Cummings, Allan Dell, Zander Fagerson, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Stuart McInally (captain), WP Nel, Gordon Reid, Jamie Ritchie, Blade Thomson, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson
- Backs: Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Adam Hastings, Stuart Hogg, George Horne, Peter Horne, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor
Rugby World Cup guides and features
- Winner predictions and betting odds: who will lift the Webb Ellis Cup?
- Fixtures: pool matches, dates, UK start times, knockout schedule, TV guide
- Squads: who will be playing for the 20 teams in Japan?
- Manu Tuilagi says ‘special’ England are raring to go
- Ireland team profile, pool A fixtures, squad
- England team profile, pool C fixtures, squad
- Wales team profile, pool D fixtures, squad