9 Sep 2015

Scotland eye Samoa clash for Cup quarter

6:58 pm on 9 September 2015

Scotland suffered a disastrous Six Nations, but their hard-nosed New Zealand coach Vern Cotter seems to have succeeded in making his team turn a corner.

However a quarter-final place in the World Cup looks set to depend on one game - the Samoa pool match.

After an autumn series in which they had beaten Argentina and pushed New Zealand close, the Scots ended up with the Six Nations wooden spoon last season, going close against France and Wales before losing away to England, going down at home to Italy and then rolling over to Ireland on the final day.

Mathieu Bastareaud of France during the Test Match 2015 Rugby Union match between France and Scotland on September 5, 2015 at Stade de France in Saint Denis, France. Photo Jean Marie Hervio / Regamedia / DPPI

Scotland try to tackle Mathieu Bastareaud in their 19-16 loss to France in Paris Photo: AFP

But Scotland have some form at World Cups. Their best finish was fourth in the 1991 tournament and they have reached the knockout stages of every other World Cup except 2011, when they went out in the pool stages.

Four years ago they were drawn alongside England and Argentina in a tough pool, but ended up pushing both close after struggling past relative minnows Georgia and Romania.

The key game for the Scots this time around will be their fourth and final Pool B clash on October 10th against Samoa at Newcastle's St James Park.

With previous pool games against Japan on September 23rd, the United States four days later and hot favourites South Africa on October 3rd, also in Newcastle, the match against Manu Samoa seems to have runner-up spot written all over it should the form book be relied upon.

The Scotland rugby coach, New Zealander Vern Cotter.

The Scotland rugby coach, New Zealander Vern Cotter. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Cotter, the former coach of French Top 14 giants Clermont, might complain of the limited number of top-flight international players in Scotland, but among those he has called up are some who can on their day shine as bright as many others in northern hemisphere rugby.

"We're showing a little bit more explosiveness around the contact areas but we need to develop a bit more confidence," Cotter said after watching his team go down 19-16 to France in their final warm-up match.

"We want to do really well in this World Cup and the players are determined."

There is a good lineout with the Gray brothers, Richie and Jonny, and the backs led by captain Greg Laidlaw and first five Finn Russell also feature impressive centre Mark Bennett, fleet-footed Stuart Hogg and New Zealand-born Sean Maitland.

Apart from Maitland, Cotter has not been afraid of calling up South Africans Josh Strauss and Willem Nel as well as ex-Highlanders flanker John Hardie, a controversial inclusion after his arrival from New Zealand just weeks before the tournament kicks off.


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