Sometimes the bounce of the odd-shaped rugby ball goes for you and sometimes it goes against you, and for Scotland at Rugby World Cup 2021, there is no doubt the latter applies.
Two agonisingly close games have ended in defeat, with less than a try separating them from Wales (18-15) and Australia (14-12) in their two games to date.
This means they will need to cause arguably the biggest shock in Rugby World Cup history to venture any further as they have got hosts and defending champions New Zealand as their final pool opponent.
Your Scotland team to face the Black Ferns this Saturday has been confirmed 🏴— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 20, 2022
📅 Sat 22 Oct, 4.45am BST
📺 STV/ITV/STV Player#AsOne | @rugbyworldcup
Scotland are currently bottom of Pool A and anything less than a win against the in-form Black Ferns will see them packing for home.
If that does transpire, Scotland can still reflect positively on their first Rugby World Cup tournament in 12 years in the knowledge that they have not looked out of place.
“I have been really proud of the way we’ve played and off the back of that, we have got two losing bonus points. We could have been sitting here with two wins, it’s been that close, and due to that we are still in the fight and we still have an opportunity to make the quarter-final,” said head coach Bryan Easson.
“You saw in the performances against Wales and Australia what it means to these players: the heart, the fight, the passion is undoubted.
“But it is not just about the heart, the fight, the passion, it is also about the ability to play the game and I think we are showing everyone how far we have progressed and how far we are advancing.
“We know that is not a ceiling, we know that we can keep going and we can keep improving and showing what we are all about.”
Tried and trusted selection
While not satisfied with the results, Easson’s selection for the final game against New Zealand highlights how much belief he has that they are not far from getting things right.
Shona Campbell is in for Chloe Rollie at full-back in the only injury-enforced change to the matchday XV that took to the field last time out against the Wallaroos, a game Scotland led 12-0.
That continuity of selection has been evident throughout the tournament with 12 of Saturday’s run-on team having started all three games.
“The selection for this match was fairly straightforward for us,” Easson said.
“I really felt that the team that started against Australia and the team that started against Wales as well really put their hands up and put in some really good performances in a lot of areas of the game. You do have to look at that and say, ‘let’s go again’.
“You can see from the team that there are some really good players in there who deserve to start again.”
As a team, Scotland have made the most tackles and in captain and flanker, Rachel Malcolm, they have the top individual tackler. Malcolm says the defensive display of the team is the thing that has pleased her the most
“Everyone has put their hand up,” she said. “If one person gets their job wrong in defence it can result in a line break or a try or whatever it is, everyone needs to be on the same page.
“I think the defensive performance we have shown in the two games shows how together we are as a team,” said Malcolm, who has made 44 tackles.
While New Zealand have rested some of their frontline stars, Malcolm is no less excited at the prospect of playing them for the first time.
“As soon as we found out we were going to be playing New Zealand in New Zealand, there has been nothing but excitement about this game,” she said.
“It is an opposition we have never played before, it is an opposition who play a pretty exciting brand of rugby, one that we have probably not faced, so that is a really exciting challenge for us, to see how we fare coming against that.
“We have got absolutely nothing to lose and we’re going to throw absolutely everything at it.”