HALF a dozen tries, no points conceded and a bonus point comfortably tucked away would represent a decent return for Scotland against Romania in Lille on Saturday evening.
In fact, most Scotland fans expect Gregor Townsend‘s side to notch a big score against the Romanians given the punishment inflicted on them by South Africa and Ireland thus far.
However, Scotland will know not to get ahead of themselves. The sides have met twice at the World Cup before, and the 2011 clash in Invercargill hung in the balance until the Scots pulled away late on.
It was rather more comfortable in 2007, as Frank Hadden‘s men romped to a 42-0 win over their lacklustre visitors at Murrayfield. Allister Hogg led the way that day with a hat-trick, the first by a Scot at the World Cup since Gavin Hastings scored four against Ivory Coast in 1995.
“Scoring a hat-trick at the World Cup was pretty cool,” said the 40-year-old said, who hung up his boots in 2018 after eight seasons with Newcastle Falcons, having previously spent the same period of time at Edinburgh during a 16-year professional career.
“We’d played the first game against Portugal in St Etienne and won that comfortably, but the only disappointing thing about that Romania game was we had to come back to play it at Murrayfield. We’d got into the World Cup spirit and we had to fly home for games against Romania and then New Zealand.
“But it was a great experience just being involved in my first World Cup, having my family there, it was great.”
After the high of putting Romania to the sword, Scotland were brought down to earth with a bang, a largely second string side – including a 20-year-old John Barclay making his debut and Hogg off the bench – were beaten 40-0 by New Zealand.
In many ways there are similarities with this campaign in terms of being eaten by a southern hemisphere superpower before a winner-takes-all pool decider. In 2007, it was Italy who stood in Scotland’s way of a quarter-final.
“Everything was geared towards that night back in St Etienne. It was pretty tense – it felt like neither team wanted to lose rather than one team wanted to win,” recalled Hogg. “Thankfully ,we were on the right side of the result [Scotland won a tense and scrappy contest 18-16 thanks to a flawless kicking display from Chris Paterson with six penalties, but only after David Bortolussi has missed a late penalty which would have sent the Azzuri through] and then it was up to Paris for the quarter-final against Argentina.”
The Pumas were the stars of that tournament in the same way Fiji have taken this one by storm, and a side inspired by Juan Martin Hernandez were too good for Scotland in the last eight.
Hogg, though, has fond memories of the tournament. “Not many people get to be part of a World Cup, so just being there was huge for me,” he reflected. “I’d say that was one of my career highlights being part of that campaign.”
The 40-year-old, who keeps himself involved with the game by coaching the forwards at Alnwick RFC, has been encouraged by what he’s seen from Scotland so far.
“We’ve seen South Africa steamroll New Zealand just before the tournament so the fact Scotland stood up to them was a good sign.” he reasoned, before recognising that it won’t be any easier in next week’s must-win game against the number one team in the world.
“Ireland is going to be the make-or-break game. It’s going to be tough to qualify. When you see the way Ireland play, they are a well-organised and well-drilled side. They are just methodical and disciplined. They know how to break down teams. But first we need to get past Romania and you can’t take anything for granted in international rugby.”