Gregor Townsend would be quite happy to be matched with summer opponents Australia, Italy or Fiji in today’s Rugby World Cup 2019 draw in Kyoto.
The new Scotland coach is at home doing his last duty at Glasgow Warriors – attending the club’s annual end of season dinner – while SRU Director of Performance Scott Johnson is representing Scotland at the draw, but Townsend will take an obvious interest in affairs in Japan.
The Scots are in the second band of qualifiers by virtue of them moving up to fifth in the world during 2016 and 2017 and that means they can’t draw fellow second seeds Wales, France or South Africa in their first round group.
They will face one of top seeds New Zealand, England, Australia and Ireland, and Townsend would be happy with the Wallabies.
“That would be great, another thing to look forward to on Wednesday morning,” he said earlier this week. “The World Cup isn’t too far away. Going to Singapore this summer (to play Italy) on the back of going to Japan last year gets our players used to the travel and playing in that part of the world.
“If we do get Australia, we’ve got them in a November test too so we’ll definitely know them pretty well.”
The “pool of death” for this championship will be whichever teams draw Argentina, semi-finalists just two years ago in England and quarter-final qualifiers for the last four World Cups, but who have slipped into the third band of seeded teams in the last few months.
For the Scots, probably a draw of reigning champions New Zealand – still the top No 1 ranked team in the world and with no sign of relinquishing the top slot – the Pumas, Samoa and possibly Tonga would be a worst case scenario, with all three of the potentially dangerous Pacific Islander nations likely to be in the fourth and fifth bands.
Alternatively, the Scots could face Australia, Italy – who they have beaten four times in a row and face in Singapore again this summer – Namibia and the final repechage winner, and would be clear favourites to plot a quarter-final place.
Playing the Wallabies in the World Cup would be a chance for proper revenge for the epic quarter-final defeat at Twickenham in the last tournament in 2015, when Bernard Foley’s last-gasp controversial penalty denied the Scots a shock victory.