Chris Paterson’s World Cup Preview
On Sunday 22 September, Scotland will play their opening match of Rugby World Cup 2019 against Ireland in Yokohama.
Ahead of the competition, we caught up with former Scotland captain and record points-scorer Chris Paterson to get his thoughts on Scotland’s Pool A opposition as well as the runners and riders in this year’s tournament.
Pool Opponents – IRELAND
Sunday 22 September.
Kick-off 4.45pm local time (8.45am BST), International Stadium, Yokohama
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)
At a glance: Ireland have previously featured in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals stage six times (1987, 1991, 1995, 2003, 2011, 2015) but have been unable to progress to the semi-finals so far. From the 35 matches Ireland have played throughout the Rugby World Cup, they have won 21 matches and lost 14.
Chris Paterson on Ireland: “I think with Ireland the thing that springs to mind is how consistent they’ve been for the last 18 months to two years, up until the last few months. They’ve beaten the All Blacks twice, they’ve been winning Grand Slams, so they’ve been really consistent.
“They’re an experienced team, but now it almost looks like they’re going to have to reinvigorate the team because their Six Nations results would have been disappointing for them and some of their Rugby World Cup warm-up results will have been disappointing.
“They’ll probably go back to what made them so successful, which was a structured game. The threat that they pose is the physicality, the experience they’ve got and really big players in key positions.”
Pool Opponents – SAMOA
Monday 30 September
Kick-off 7.15pm local time (11.15am BST), Kobe Misaki Stadium, Kobe
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (FFR)
At a glance: Samoa have previously reached the quarter-finals twice – in 1991 and 1995 – and will be looking to bring their thrilling brand of attacking rugby to the tournament. They have faced Scotland on four occasions during the Rugby World Cup – with their most recent encounter in 2015 – but have been unable to claim victory. Samoa have scored on average 23.36 points per match during their time competing in the Rugby World Cup.
Chris Paterson on Samoa: “I believe they’re always stronger in the world cup than they are playing friendlies, be it tour matches or November Test, because sometimes their more experienced players play for their clubs during that period. For the Rugby World Cup it’s an ideal opportunity to get them all together.
“They’ll have trained together in preparation for a lot longer, they’ll be more organised and they’ll be fitter, which is a dangerous mix when they’ve got so much natural talent and physicality.
“The reference point would be the last world cup in St James’ Park when Scotland won 36-33. It was an open game and the lead changed hands, so you can almost see how it might go.
“It should be a game that Scotland look forward to – recognising the threat that Samoa pose – but I think it’s a match where if Scotland get their game right they could really do well.”
Pool Opponents – RUSSIA
Wednesday 9 October
Kick-off 4.15pm (local) 8.15am (BST)Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (FFR)
At a glance: Russia’s participation at Rugby World Cup 2019 marks their second appearance in the global tournament. They qualified for the world cup for the first time for the 2011 edition of the tournament, where they recorded four losses at the pool stage in a tough group that included Australia, Ireland, Italy and USA. Having qualified as the Europe 1 team, Russia will be in the spotlight at Rugby World Cup 2019 when they face host nation Japan for the opening fixture on 20 September at Tokyo Stadium.
Chris Paterson on Russia: “Russia have been disappointing of late – they’re not as consistent, they’re not as strong and they’ve had a couple of difficult results at home against lower ranked opposition.
“They had a heavy defeat against Italy, 85-15, and while we don’t know what stage they were at in their preparations or who their personnel were compared to who will make the plane to Japan, I think it’s fair to say that Russia at the moment aren’t as strong as they’ve been in previous world cups.
“They’ll get a boost at the world cup and they’ll probably bring back some experienced players but hopefully our strength and depth can allow us to be successful.”
Pool Opponents – JAPAN
Sunday 13 October
Kick-off 7.45pm local time (11.45am BST), International Stadium, Yokohama
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (NZR)
At a glance: Hosts Japan will head into the tournament with confidence after recently being crowned Pacific Nations Cup champions.The Brave Blossoms put in an impressive attacking performance against Fiji, Tonga and USA – scoring 14 tries and claiming 109 points in total over the three games. Japan have faced Scotland on seven occasions, the most recent in 2016, and have never secured a win.
Chris Paterson on Japan: “I think it’s a game that a lot of the rugby world will look forward to. Host nations always get interest and Scotland have a massive following, especially the way Gregor and the team have tried to play in the last couple of years so I think it’ll catch everybody’s eye.
“We don’t know what’ll happen in the first few games for both teams but we know that Japan have been training as a squad for a long time this season and the guys will be super-fit. They won all of their games in the Pacific Nations Championship, they play high-tempo rugby, their support play is outstanding and they score some wonder tries.
“Add that to the undoubted boost they’ll get from being in front of their own public, representing their nation, it’s a really exciting challenge. I hope it’s still a massively meaningful fixture by the time we come to play.”
Chris Paterson: “I genuinely think South Africa are there or thereabouts. You’ve got New Zealand, obviously, but South Africa have a physicality that allows them to compete with anyone.
“I suppose we’ve got to include France as a contender. If they can keep the consistency they’ll be a challenge as they’ve got the talent and the depth and quality.
“What skews everything in the build-up is home advantage – in a lot of the warm-up games the home advantage has been the determining factor. So when you get to a neutral venue who knows what will happen. That makes it exciting.
“England have a game that can worry almost everyone. Wales have had a successful run and reached the top of the world rankings, so they’ve got a winning habit. I think the home nations can all justifiably come to the world cup with expectations of being successful.”