Scotland can reach World Cup semi-finals - Sean Lamont

Scotland and Ireland players
Scotland beat Ireland 27-22 in this year's Six Nations

Former Scotland back Sean Lamont believes the semi-finals are the target for the national team at the 2019 World Cup.

The Scots have been drawn in the same pool as Six Nations rivals Ireland and World Cup hosts Japan.

Two teams will come through the qualifying process to make up the section.

"It's certainly the best one I've seen in my years of playing," said Lamont, who won 105 Scotland caps.

"I definitely reckon we'll qualify, if not qualify top. There's not that one big team that you always think, 'oh, that's going to be a real tough one' - the New Zealands, South Africas, Australias even Englands at the moment.

"All the pools will be tough, but for us it's been a good draw.

"It's one of the more even pools. It's a great, great opportunity to qualify, and qualify top. It's teams we know and have beaten before.

"We should be looking for at least semis. That's the standard we need to start aiming for, especially the way we've been playing recently."

'Aiming big'

Gregor Townsend takes over from Vern Cotter as Scotland head coach for this summer's tour, which will take in matches against Italy, Australia and Fiji in the southern hemisphere.

"If Gregor comes in and continues to build on Vern's basis and [with] the squad we've got and the depth we now have in positions, there's no reason we can't be aiming for semis and onwards," said Lamont, who worked with Townsend at Glasgow Warriors.

"We've got to be aiming big.

"Gregor is very meticulous in his planning. He's very concise on what he wants from the players. He demands a high level and he expects the players to conform to that.

"Gregor's a good coach, he knows what he wants and he'll do well with Scotland."

Sean Lamont playing for Scotland against Japan
Lamont featured in Scotland's win over Japan at the 2015 World Cup

Scotland toured Japan last summer and won both Tests and also beat Ireland during this year's Six Nations.

"They have come on massively," recently retired Lamont said of Japan. "Rugby's growing massively over there.

"You look at last World Cup, they beat South Africa. After that game they went from a viewing population of 500,000 to a couple of million.

"Whoever's in the pool with Japan, you'll always be the enemy. You're going to come up against the crowd, which can make a big difference on the referee. Japan are going to be really fired up.

"Our record's not always the best against Ireland. They've got a lot of quality players, they know how to win. They are a tough team. For top of the group, they're probably favourites at the moment. They're the ones to beat.

"We've improved massively as a nation, but we can't be thinking we've made it already and qualified. We have to fight for everything."

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