Scotland set to rejoin big boys on summer tour

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 02:  All Black Jonah Lomu prepares to fend off Scotland's Cameron Murray in the second test at Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday. New Zealand won 4814.  (Photo by Ross Setford/Getty Images)
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 02: All Black Jonah Lomu prepares to fend off Scotland's Cameron Murray in the second test at Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday. New Zealand won 4814. (Photo by Ross Setford/Getty Images)
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If you were miffed that most of the weekend’s most interesting matches took place thousands of miles from the Canada v Scotland game in Edmonton then rest easy.

This summer is the final year of the old tour schedule and a new one starts in 2020, after the World Cup, when Scotland are due to rejoin the big boys of Europe with two Test tours to the big beasts of the southern hemisphere: New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

Under the current agreement Scotland (and Italy) would play the odd one-off game against the big three from the south but neither team was reckoned to be strong enough to play a full series against the very best in the world.

Scotland have instead mostly played against second tier nations, such as Japan, Canada and the USA, and the only tier one country they have toured, rather than just played a one-off match against, is Argentina, who tend to be relatively weak in between World Cups due to their refusal to pick any players 
from abroad. Scotland won a two-Test series there in 2010, their first series win in the southern hemisphere.

Four years ago Scotland played a one-off Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth and a scratch team lost 55-6 but they won one-off Tests in Australia in 2012 and again in 2017. However, Scotland have not been granted the honour of playing against the No 1 ranked All Blacks in New Zealand since 2000, when they suffered a humiliating 118-34 aggregate defeat.

Since that time the Scots have made strides and slowly improved in the Six Nations, winning three matches for the last two years and rising to a high of fifth in the world rankings.

Right now Scotland sit in sixth place but they have been deemed strong enough to merit two-Test tours against the big three and they could, at least in theory, go to New Zealand as early as 2020, but whatever the actual date the Scots won’t have to endure another 20-year wait.

The new schedule also sees the Test window shifted forward from June to July to allow Super Rugby to finish before players are called up on international duty.

Scotland may not be playing three Test tours as yet but World Rugby are attempting to increase the number of internationals between first and second tier nations, and the extra weekend left over after a two-Test tour may well be given over to a one-off match between, for instance, Georgia and Australia or South Africa versus the USA.

For reasons of player wellbeing, World Rugby’s three-week long international window will narrow down to just a fortnight in any year following a World Cup.