Rugby World Cup 2015: Scotland have a tough pool to negotiate

Finn Russell
Finn Russell was rested for most of Scotland's World Cup warm-up matches
Rugby World Cup
Hosts: England Dates: 18 September-31 October
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It is going to be hard for Scotland to make the quarter-finals.

They have got a couple of tough opening matches, against Japan and the United States, but I think Scotland would expect to win both.

However, both these teams, plus Scotland's other Pool B opponents South Africa and Samoa, come to the World Cup having put in months and months of preparation.

Japan

Japan will be the weakest of their opponents, but having said that they have several players who have come from an Australian and New Zealand background. They are no fools and they play a very high-tempo game.

Scotland will be physically better, Japan will play a very fast game, moving the ball all over the place at top speed. They will be difficult to beat but I think Scotland will beat them.

There's a big question about whether they play their best team against South Africa on the Saturday or whether they keep their first 15 on standby for the Scotland match the following Wednesday.

Scotland's Rugby World Cup fixtures
Wed, 23 Septv JapanKingsholm Stadium, Gloucester14:30 BST
Sun, 27 Septv United StatesElland Road, Leeds14:30 BST
Sat, 3 Octv South AfricaSt James' Park, Newcastle16:45 BST
Sat, 10 Octv SamoaSt James' Park, Newcastle14:30 BST

USA

They've got the tall timbers as they call it and they've got some big units at the front. They are going to take a lot of stopping.

Greg Peterson, who has signed for Glasgow Warriors, is 6ft 8in, and 19st 2lb. He's typical of some of these big American forwards.

They've been working very hard to get themselves up to the right sort of level for this World Cup. They're not all playing in the US, these are guys who have a lot of experience of playing in Europe and in the UK. Nothing can be taken for granted.

Scotland expect their toughest test of the pool to be against South Africa
Scotland expect their toughest test of the pool to be against South Africa

South Africa

Do Scotland play their best team or their second string against South Africa in their third match?

At the time I saw what the Scotland coach at the time, Frank Hadden, was trying to do when he played what was a B team against New Zealand at the 2007 World Cup. However, I don't know how current coach Vern Cotter will approach the game against the Springboks.

He might play cagey and keep players in cold storage for the Samoa game. On the other hand he'll watch South Africa and see how they're playing, see what sort of injuries they pick up, and maybe wonder if his best team can beat them.

I think it's difficult to say he'll play his number one team against South Africa; I suspect he'll hold something in reserve for the final Pool B game against Samoa.

Look at the names in the South Africa team - Bryan Habana, Bismarck du Plessis, Duane Vermeulen, who I think is just about the best number eight in world rugby at the moment. A lot will depend on how he plays now that he's back from injury.

At scrum-half, they also have the guy who I think will be key to South African success - Fourie du Preez.

Scotland's coach in 2007 Frank Hadden rested players for the match with New Zealand, resulting in a 40-0 loss
Scotland's coach in 2007 Frank Hadden rested players for the match with New Zealand, resulting in a 40-0 loss

Samoa

Against Samoa, it will be absolutely brutal. It will be all-out collision rugby. High-impact, high-velocity rugby.

Some of the hits will be just shuddering, they'll make your teeth rattle even if you're just watching in the stands. It will be compelling viewing.

My hope is that Scotland win at least three games in the pool and make the quarter-finals, and then we'll take just one game at a time after that.

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