Rugby Rugby World Cup 2019: The lowdown on Scotland’s pool opponents

    Rugby Rugby World Cup 2019: The lowdown on Scotland’s pool opponents

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    Rugby Scotland open their campaign against Ireland in Yokohama

    Scotland open their campaign against Ireland in Yokohama

    The squad is assembled and the tension is rising as Scotland prepare to open their Rugby World Cup campaign against Ireland on Sunday.

    Ireland, Samoa, Russia and hosts Japan stand between Gregor Townsend’s side and a quarter-final spot, most likely against New Zealand or South Africa.

    But just how big a challenge will each side pose?

    BBC Scotland takes a look at Scotland’s four pool-stage opponents.

    • Taylor, Johnson and Seymour start for Scotland
    • Earls & Kearney out, Conway & Larmour in for Ireland


    World Ranking: 1

    Last World Cup: Quarter-finals

    Last meeting:Scotland 13-22 Ireland (Murrayfield, February 2019)

    A win against Wales in their final warm-up match lifted Joe Schmidt’s side above New Zealand to the top of the world rankings, but it’s hard to know what shape they are truly in. A brilliant 2018 in which they beat the All Blacks and secured a Grand Slam title gave way to a disappointing Six Nations campaign this year as they were convincingly beaten by England and Wales – and they were thumped 57-15 at Twickenham in their second World Cup warm-up match.

    They did recover to beat Wales home and away, but there is a sense that Scotland have the weapons to seriously hurt Ireland. Schmidt also has a number of worrying injury concerns to contend with that Gregor Townsend could look to exploit. Robbie Henshaw, a key cog in a burgeoning midfield partnership with Bundee Aki, is out with a hamstring injury and experienced back-three duo Rob Kearney and Keith Earls could also miss out.

    Potential replacements Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway are lethal in attack, but Larmour in particular has at times proved unconvincing under the high ball, particularly compared to the rock-solid Kearney. An astute kicking game that targets this could bear fruit for Scotland, p

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