Rugby World Cup 2019: Skipper McInally can be catalyst for Scotland - Hastings

By Nicholas McGee 18 September 2019 15
Rugby World Cup 2019: Skipper McInally can be catalyst for Scotland - Hastings

Captain Stuart McInally can be a catalyst for Scotland at the Rugby World Cup, according to former captain Gavin Hastings.

Scotland begin their campaign on Sunday against Ireland in a match between the two teams expected to progress from Group A.

McInally was named captain by Gregor Townsend as he attempts to guide Scotland to a last-eight tie in which they will likely face either defending world champions New Zealand or South Africa.

Scotland were narrowly beaten by Australia in the quarter-finals four years ago and Hastings, who led Scotland to the same stage in 1995, highlighted the current skipper as being crucial to their prospects in Japan.

"He is a good choice as captain, he's an outstanding hooker and he brings so many different qualities to that Scotland team," Hastings told Omnisport of McInally. 

"He has an explosive element to his game, he is a leader with ball in hand, if he can pop up in other areas of the pitch, he ultimately is a catalyst for a lot of good Scotland can do. He actually delivers slightly more around the field of play because he's a former flanker.

"He's in amongst it, against the Tadhg Furlongs, the Cian Healys, the Rory Bests. The fact is he needs to lead from the front."

Hastings believes victory over Ireland is especially important for Scotland, as it could help them avoid a winner-take-all clash with hosts Japan in the final group game.

"From a Scotland perspective they have got to target everything on that Ireland game, otherwise they put themselves under huge pressure," Hastings added.

"If they lose, they have then got to go out and beat Russia, Samoa and Japan to qualify for the quarter-finals.

"You beat Ireland and you put yourself in a very strong position to qualify. We all know how tricky Japan can be, if Japan were going for a quarter-final place with that last game of the pool stages against Scotland then that is going to be a hugely tricky assignment. 

"Ultimately, everything hinges on that opening game in terms of Scotland's success in this tournament. They must deliver against Ireland and if not they've got to be clinical against Russia, Samoa and Japan.

"Ireland will be very aware of the fact they need to improve upon their recent performances, but then again so do Scotland. Unless Scotland deliver 100 per cent performance, then they're not going to win that game.

"If it doesn't click for Scotland, life will be tough. What faces both Ireland and Scotland if they get out of the group is either the winner or loser of Group B, which happens to be South Africa or New Zealand. Once you get in knockout rugby anything can happen.

"Scotland know the last time they were in a quarter-final they were very, very unlucky not to beat Australia and if they get that chance and they put themselves in that position for a quarter-final, it doesn't matter if it's New Zealand or South Africa, they will give it their best shot."

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Nicholas McGee