Johnson: We can challenge for top spot

PA Sport
Scott Johnson is confident Scotland can top a group which contains South Africa
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Scott Johnson is confident Scotland can top a group which contains South Africa

Scott Johnson believes Scotland are capable of topping their group at the 2015 World Cup despite being drawn alongside South Africa and Samoa.

The Scots, who are seeking a new coach after Andy Robinson stepped down in the wake of last month's defeat to Tonga, are the lowest ranked team of the named trio with Japan and Canada likely to complete a tricky Pool B.

Johnson, Scotland's attack coach and a contender to succeed Robinson, insists his side can humble the Springboks if they play to their potential. "We've shown form in the last few years that proves we can take the scalps of the big teams," he said.

"Trying to determine what theirs or our side will look like in three years time is like determining how big, fat and ugly I'll be in three years time, which isn't easy. The fact is if we get our parts completely right, we'll take on anyone on any given day. That's what we're aiming to do."

With South Africa expected to top Pool B, Scotland and Samoa will battle it out for the runners-up spot with Australia, England or Wales waiting in the quarter-finals. But Johnson refused to identify the South Sea Islanders as the pivotal match and believes it will be the most competitive tournament yet.

"I remember going for the draw for the 2003 World Cup and it was obvious the pools were very weak below the first and second teams," he said.

"But looking at the pools for 2015, the third, fourth and fifth teams won't be easy. Japan will be in our pool and in three years' time they will be very good. If you take your eye off the ball and look at just one fixture it's not fair on the tournament nor the game. We've got to do our part and do it well. If we do that we'll pull through."

Johnson's sentiments were echoed by South Africa captain Jean de Villiers, who said: "Being used to the conditions definitely gives Scotland an advantage. It's not too far from home for them so they'll have a lot of support. We've had Samoa in every World Cup we've played. That will be another tough one.

"World rugby is getting closer and closer together and the guys are getting more competitive so by the time we hit 2015 it will be a great show for world rugby."

Fresh from last month's victory over Wales, captain David Lemi warned the World Cup that Samoa and Tonga want to have a major impact in three years' time. "The draw has been really good for us because it's the first time the Islands are split into different pools," he said. "We just need to keep building and when the time comes do our best."

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