Scotland beat England 29-23 at Twickenham to remind the world champion South Arica and the world’s top-ranked team, Ireland. That they won’t be making up facts at Rugby World Cup 2023. Ever since the World Cup draw was made absurdly prematurely in December 2020. 33 months before the start of the competition. It has been a waiting game to see which sides would be in form at the exact time.
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The result of the draw put the protecting world champions, South Africa, and Ireland in the same group. It also included Scotland, then graded seventh. That set the story because, at the time, the Boks hadn’t played for over a year due to the disease. But booked their No 1 world ranking status while Ireland was fifth at the time. Ireland is now No 1, with the South Africa RWC side fourth and Scotland fifth.
Group B also contains Tonga and Romania. It is the group of death. The general agreement has been that the loser of the Group B clashes between South Africa and Ireland on 23 September at the Stade de France in Paris will meet the front-runner of Pool A in the quarterfinals. In case you’ve forgotten, Pool A contains hosts France and constant pre-Rugby World Cup Favourites New Zealand.
South Africa showed at Rugby World Cup 2019
The philosophy is that between those four teams, two bright teams will be knocked out before the semi-finals, thanks to the quirks of the draw. But, not so fast, there is another possible wrinkle in the smooth path for South Africa and Ireland in the form of daring Scotland. The Scots are not exactly flying under the detector after another victory over England. But it’s not so much the result as their show that has caught the eye. The Boks proved at RWC 2019, after losing their opening game.
That a team can afford one defeat and still progress to the knockout phases, but not two. However, it has been done before. France infamously lost to Tonga in Pool play in 2011. As well as to hosts New Zealand, but shrilled into the knockouts after Tonga lost to Canada as well as New Zealand. France, as France does despite the squad at war with coach Marc Lievremont made it to the Rugby World Cup Final where they lost 8-7 to the All Blacks. For more about knowing South Africa Rugby World Cup Tickets.
France should have won that Rugby World Cup Final
On the stability of play, they should have won that final. Although they were surely not deserving world champions based on their overall body of work at the competition. The point of all this is that Scotland could ruin either South Africa or Ireland’s advance to the knockout phases. Ireland looked the part of world No 1 as they pull to pieces Wales 34-10 in their Six Nations opener in Cardiff last weekend.
They have a great pack, unsafe backs and the evergreen Johnny Sexton steering the team around the park from the fly-half. Scotland, ranked seventh before the Six Nations started but up two places after beating England 29-23 in a thriller at Twickenham to record their third consecutive win in a row at the home of rugby have caught the eye. Like France in 2011, Scotland is perhaps too varying to win at least six out of seven games at RWC 2023 to take the Webb Ellis Cup.
Duhan van der Merwe
But they are certainly good enough to beat Ireland or the Springboks in a one-off group game. South African-born Scotland wing, Duhan van der Merwe, counted two fine tries against England. The first was one of the best Twickenham had ever seen. He weaved and motorised his way through England’s lines from well inside his half. A try of such fascinating quality that the late England wing David Duckham, who died shortly before the contest started, would’ve been proud.
Van der Merwe will be one of the numerous players assuming Scotland will have a fully fit team at the time, who could edge a tight game. He is big and powerful, but also fast and mysterious. Scotland RWC coach Gregor Townsend compared Van der Merwe’s long-range try to something only the late Jonah Lomu would have recorded and it wasn’t hyperbole. It was implausible, wasn’t it? Townsend asked verbally after the conquest of England.
It reminded me of when, for everybody of a certain age, you played ‘Jonah Lomu rugby’ and abruptly one person could go quicker. That first try was remarkable, and one that gets the Scotland followers going crazy in the stands and hushes everyone else because you don’t see tries like that very often. In tandem with the changeable fly-half Finn Russell, Scotland has some guns that can unpick any tight defence.
Russell will be another potential problem during RWC 2023
Eighteen months ago, Van der Merwe was a qualified unknown when the British & Irish Lions toured South Africa in that mean, Covid-plagued 2021 tour. Russell was hurt early on and only played in the key third Test when he came on as an early standby for Dan Biggar. Van der Merwe was very good in Lions colours, but he’s become even healthier in the ensuing year and a half. For more about knowing Scotland Rugby World Cup Tickets.
Russell showed in the 60 minutes he played in the third Test that if he had been accessible for selection from the first Test, the result of the Lions series might have been different. His hour in the third Test produced the Bok defence more problems than the preceding 200-odd minutes during the first two meetings. He will be another potential problem when the teams meet in Marseille later this year.
He flashed the attack for Van der Merwe’s match-winning try against England late in the game and is a player of rare vision. Of course, he can go off-script at times, but his randomness allied with his obvious playmaking abilities make him very dangerous. And now that Scotland has a decent pack, Russell is a bigger risk.
The South Africa Rugby World Cup team needs a wild start
South Africa and their administration, are inspecting the Six Nations with keen attention. Fortunately, their opening game is against Scotland. There is no time to ease into the contest. It will be a knockout game because, lose that, and the pressure bases. This is why the Boks’ schedule, which looks hard considering it’s an RWC year, is the result of some smart scheduling by coach Jacques Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
They have back-to-back warm-up games against Wales and New Zealand in Cardiff and London, with a two-week break before the Scotland summit on 10 September. It means South Africa will be away from home for more than 10 weeks. If they progress to the Rugby World Cup Final. It’s a method that they used in 2019 when they were the first side to arrive in Japan.
Playing against the Brave Blossoms in a pre-World Cup Test before going on to win the entire contest. If the Boks can come out of the group, they still face some massive obstacles to defend their championship. Scotland has sent a cue, though, that they can’t think much added ahead than the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
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