2019 Rugby World Cup
Armchair fans need to play a good game to see stars in action
World stage: Stuart Hogg (pic: SNS Group)
While Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend will be hoping to get his tactics spot-on in Japan, armchair fans will have their own strategies in place to watch the World Cup action unfold.
The good news for fans in the UK is that all the action will be aired free-to-view on ITV, the terrestrial broadcaster also having the rights to the 2023 tournament as part of a multi-million-pound long-term deal.
Supporters, though, may have to be a little creative if they want to watch the action as it happens as the kick-off times represent something of a challenge for viewers.
The Scots kick off their campaign against Ireland on Sunday morning, with referee Wayne Barnes getting the action under way at the International Stadium in Yokohama at 8.45am (4.45pm Japan).
Next up is the formidable Samoa pack in Kobe on Monday, 30 September, at the slightly later time of 11.15am (7.15pm).
The Pool A action continues for Townsend’s men on Wednesday, 9 October when they take on Russia in the Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa. It’s another early start for the TV fans with the match starting at 8.45am (4.15pm).
What may well prove to be Scotland’s most crucial match in the pool is their final game against Japan back in Yokohama on Saturday, 13 October. For UK-based supporters, kick-off is a more civilised 11.45am (7.45pm).
Scotland’s management team has set a minimum target of reaching the quarter-finals, the last eight matches being staged over the weekend of 19/20 October.
If the Scots win Pool A, they will face Pool B runner-up – likely to be South Africa – on Sunday, 20 October in Tokyo (11.15am). Should Scotland finish second, they will take on the winner of Pool B – probably New Zealand – in Tokyo on the Saturday morning (11.15am).
The final is on Saturday, 2 November at 9am (6pm) in Yokohama.
Current odds suggest a New Zealand victory for the third time running, the All Blacks sitting at 6/4 to come out on top. England and South Africa are next at 9/2. A New Zealand-South Africa final is the most popular punt at the moment at 11/4, while next in that market is the 8/1 option of New Zealand-Ireland.
You can get a Scotland-New Zealand final at 66-1.
Fancy a flutter on the top try scorer? All Blacks wingers Rieko Ioane (9/1) and Sevu Reece (10/1) top the pre-tournament market. Irishman Jacob Stockdale (12/1) and England’s explosive Jonny May (14/1) follow the New Zealand pair. Scots talisman Stuart Hogg is at 80/1.
For those who have made the journey to Japan, they should find the climate pleasant enough.
Average day time temperatures for September are in the high 70s, with evening lows in the low 70s. Humidity may be a factor, though there is normally less rain at this time of year compared to the previous couple of months.
Pool A: Scotland, Ireland, Russia, Japan, Samoa.
Pool B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Namibia, Canada.
Pool C: England, France, Argentina, USA, Tonga.
Pool D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Fiji, Uruguay.
Quarter-finals – 19-20 October.
Semi-finals – 26-27 October.
Bronze final – 1 November.
Final – 2 November.
Scots’ centre of attention
Gregor Townsend has named Duncan Taylor and Sam Johnson at centre for Scotland’s World Cup opener against Ireland on Sunday.
It will be just the second time the pair have started a match together for their country.
Greig Laidlaw takes his place at scrum-half, while Tommy Seymour got the nod ahead of Darcy Graham on the wing.
Ryan Wilson was named at No. 8 for the Pool A opener in Yokohama.
Scotland: Hogg; Seymour, Taylor, Johnson, Maitland; Russell, Laidlaw; Dell, McInally (capt), Nel, Gilchrist, Gray, Barclay, Watson, Wilson.
Replacements: Brown, Reid, Berghan, Cummings, Thomson, Price, Harris, Graham.
Meanwhile, the Scots would have been interested onlookers as group rivals Japan opened the tournament with a 30-10 victory over Russia in front of an excited home crowd in Tokyo.