Bryan Easson’s side will face Colombia in Dubai

Scotland favourites in Rugby World Cup qualifier

Scotland arrive in Dubai for the Rugby World Cup 2021 Final Qualifying Tournament as favourites to book the last place at this year’s tournament in New Zealand.

The Scots finished runners-up at the European qualifying event in September, knocking out Ireland with a last-gasp converted try, and are ranked significantly higher than the other team in contention for the final Rugby World Cup spot.

Colombia (26th in the world rankings) beat Kazakhstan (15th) on 19 February, so now face Scotland (9th) on 25 February – and the winners of that final will go into Pool A alongside New Zealand, Australia and Wales.

Scotland haven’t played in a World Cup since 2010, failing to qualify in 2014 and 2017, while they have been regular wooden spooners in the Six Nations too, so being the top-ranked team is an unusual situation for them to be in.

“I think for all of us we’ve never gone into a tournament as favourites, but the bottom line for me is not to change anything,” says Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm.

“We’ve always been a team who focus on ourselves, focus on our detail and analyse the opposition, and we’ve always been a team who respect the opposition regardless of who we’re playing. That won’t change just because some numbers on a piece of paper say we’re higher ranked or favourites.

“We have experiences of always being the underdog. I don’t think for one second being favourites will cross our minds. It won’t change how we approach things.”

As for facing a team with which they will be so unfamiliar, Scotland coach Bryan Easson says: “It’s a little bit different. We make a conscious effort of having a 75:25 split anyway, so 75% we’re looking at ourselves and 25% the opposition. It’s getting ourselves right, looking at our own detail.

“We don’t have the same detail as if we’re playing a Six Nations team but playing teams from other parts of the world is exciting.

“There are different styles but what we’re expecting is for them to throw everything at us. It’s a massive opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for all the countries to go to the World Cup in New Zealand.

“It’s going to be a difficult competition for us, but we’re well aware of what we need to do and we’ve concentrated really hard on ourselves.”

The match on 25 February (3pm kick-off UK & Ireland time) will be broadcast live on BBC ALBA, with that coverage available on the BBC iPlayer too.

It will also be streamed live on World Rugby’s digital and social channels, including the World Rugby YouTube channel.

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