Rugby World Cup 2011

Scots look to end try drought

2011-08-20 13:01
Andy Robinson (File)

Edinburgh - The task at hand for Scotland's Rugby World Cup squad once again looks clear-cut - a slot in the quarter-finals is the bottom line and anything else would be a bonus.

The Scots have never failed to reach the last eight in the six World Cups contested so far and even made it as far as the semis in 1991.

But this year, the Scots are seeded just third in their pool behind England and Argentina, the two teams they will face up to after, they hope, picking up full points against Romania and Georgia.

Much will depend on the coaching and inspirational skills of Andy Robinson, who tasted World Cup success with England in Australia in 2003 when he was assistant coach to Clive Woodward.

The former flanker took over as coach of a struggling Scotland in June 2009 and, on his own admission, his record to date is at best a mixed bag.

A two-Test series win in Argentina last summer was followed by an impressive victory over world champions South Africa in November promising much for the 2011 Six Nations.

But that new dawn failed to materialise as Scotland narrowly avoided the wooden spoon by defeating Italy at home.

The Scottish selectors though have shown faith in the abilities of Robinson whose contract has been extended to take in the next World Cup in 2015 and he believes that his side can compete with the best if they continue to improve.

"I have belief that Scotland can win against any team we play against - if we play at our very best," he said.

"As coaches and players you're looking at how you can improve, and we're always looking to get better.

"What is key for us is that we are able to peak when we play Romania or Georgia and that's where our focus is, to get a starting XV really able to deliver in those games."

A narrow win over Ireland at Murrayfield has helped boost morale with a second and final warmup match scheduled against Italy at the same venue on Saturday.

But there are still nagging doubts over several positions, especially at half-back and in midfield.

The problem that has dogged Scottish rugby over recent years has been a palpable lack of tries and penetration from the back division and Robinson will hope that the Lamont brothers, Sean and Rory, or wingers Max Evans and Simon Danielli can hone their attacking instincts against Romania and Georgia before the two crunch games against Argentina in Wellington and England in Auckland.

If not he will likely have to revert to the boot of Dan Parks at fly-half and the immaculate place-kicking of veteran Chris Paterson.

It was Paterson that nudged the Scots over the line and into the quarter-finals against Fiji in Australia in 2003 and against Italy in France four years ago and at 33 he looks likely once again to be a key member of the squad.

He expects that once more it will be a desperately-close contest to reach the quarter-finals.

"It's a tough group," Paterson said.

"We're the third seeded team in the pool of five, so we have to beat two teams that are ranked above us in the world rankings - Argentina and England.

"They're teams we know we can beat, that we've beaten in recent times, but if you don't play well they're teams that can sting you as well."

The Scots have strong points as well though, notably with a glut of top-class back-row players and a strong boiler-room made up of veteran Nathan Hines and the emerging talent of Richie Gray.


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