Rugby World Cup: How Scotland are keeping calm over eight-point margin conundrum

Scotland will try not to stress over the eight-point margin of victory required against Ireland in Paris on Saturday as they try to pip their opponents for a place in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup.

Gregor Townsend’s side trail the Irish by four points going into the Pool B decider. If they can beat them and deny them a bonus point then Scotland would finish above Ireland. Both sides would be on 14 points but the head-to-head record would be used to separate them.

Pete Horne, the assistant coach, believes it's important that Scotland don't chase the game too soon and that the eight-point factor doesn't become a burden. "Obviously it’s going to be in the back of our minds, but I don’t think we’ll be stressing too much in the first 20 minutes about that," said Horne. "We’re not going to score four tries in the first 20. It will be something we are aware of - we would be daft not to. The way we play, we know we can put pressure on any team. With the style of rugby we are playing, the threats we have, we can cause anyone trouble. We’ve got to execute and be accurate. It’s going to be a huge challenge but we have real belief in our boys."

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Horne said it would be up to the team leaders to act accordingly if the opportunity arises to secure an eight-point win. "It’s something we are aware of, but it’s not something we are actively bringing up in our meetings," he said. "The key guys on the field, the key decision-makers, will be well aware and as that game unfolds, it’s something that will potentially come into play a bit more."

The group decider scenario is not dissimilar to the 2019 World Cup in Japan when Scotland went into their final pool match needing to beat the host nation and deny them a bonus point. Horne was playing that night and recalls the dread feeling as time ebbed away and Japan powered through to win 28-21. "I remember as the clock started to go on, you felt like the game was getting away from you," said Horne. "It becomes a bit uneasy and you start to worry about the consequences of the minutes ticking away. We’ll have it in the back of our minds [winning by certain] margin, but we can’t worry about it too much. If you start focusing too much on that, you forget about what’s happening in the moment. That’ll be vital this weekend, staying in the moment. If you worry about the scoreline, that’s when you’ll lose a handle on what’s actually happening."

Scotland will go into Saturday's game as massive underdogs and Horne was unstinting in his praise for an Irish side who have sat atop the world rankings for 14 months, won a Test series in New Zealand and are Six Nations grand slam champions. Interestingly, he talked up their defensive capabilities in comparison to South Africa who Scotland struggled against. "The Springboks are a lot more reckless with their linespeed," said Horne. "The Irish team are a lot better connected, they have a lot more control. They are very well organised and a tough side to break down. They have some outstanding individuals. Garry Ringrose is one of the best at holding and holding then snapping on passes, getting out the back and making great reads."