SCOTLAND assistant coach Pete Horne has dismissed out of hand the suggestion that Scotland and Ireland could collude to orchestrate a 21-point defeat for Ireland in Saturday’s eagerly anticipated World Cup Pool B clash in Paris, which would see both those teams progress to the tournament quarter-finals at the expense of South Africa.
If Scotland beat Ireland by eight points or more on Saturday and prevent their opponents from scoring four tries, they will qualify for the knock-out stages as pool runners-up behind South Africa. Additionally, if Scotland earn a try bonus point in a win over Ireland, that margin of victory only has to be by five points.
However, the idiosyncratic system for ranking teams in the event of a three-way tie on match points means that if Scotland were to record a victory by 21 points or more with four tries scored, and Ireland get a four-try bonus point, then Scotland would finish top of the pool on points differential, and it would come down to the head-to-head result between South Africa and Ireland for the Pool B runner-up spot, meaning Ireland would progress at the expense of the Springboks.
Final Pool B permutations at #RWC2023 with Ireland v Scotland the only match that impacts quarter-final qualification.
4-0 or 5-0 win for Scotland puts them through (with SA).
5-1 win for Scotland – it's complicated…
All other results put Ireland & South Africa through. pic.twitter.com/dqz8InuVZC
— Kevin Millar (@topofthemoonGW) October 1, 2023
Such an outcome is, of course, highly unlikely. And the thought of Gregor Townsend phoning Ireland head coach Andy Farrell to suggest that his team – number one ranked in the world and on a 16 match winning streak including that epic win over South Africa a fortnight ago – should agree to lose by 21 points is, frankly, laughable.
However, South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber stirred the pot yesterday [Monday].
“Could I believe in a scenario that they will decide ‘do we want to get this amount of points and then get South Africa out of the way?’ That would probably be match-fixing, I would say. I hope not,” he said. “Rugby is clean. We wear those t-shirts so hopefully not because that would be extremely disappointing.”
Speaking at a press conference earlier today [Tuesday], Horne was asked if the idea of some sort of deal being struck between Scotland and Ireland to cut out the reigning champions was a ridiculous concept.
‘Yeah [it’s ridiculous],” he replied. “We’ve not even thought about it. We were briefed about it before this press conference, but, prior to that, I hadn’t even seen the comments.”
‘It’s nothing that we’ve spoken about. We’ve just focused on the job we have to do on Saturday night. That’s big enough in itself.
Ireland head coach Mike Catt took a very similar view when he said: “I don’t know what to say about that. I think he [Nienaber] was asked the question. He didn’t actually say it was match-fixing, did he?
“That stuff is just white noise in the background. We’re not going to go in cahoots with Scotland.
“Would we want Scotland to beat us by 21 points? If you asked any player in this room, any of us, would they want Scotland to beat you by 21 points? No, sorry.
“Ultimately, both teams need to win the game. If you do that then you put yourself in a good position. That’s what we will try to achieve.”