With France and New Zealand opening the 2023 World Cup in Paris on Friday, September 8th, many people have wondered who the favourites will be and how the home nations will get on.
Most betting sites in the UK currently have New Zealand as 3/1 favourites with France narrowly behind them in second place. South Africa and Ireland aren't far behind and the odds between these four teams are relatively similar.
The odds for England to lift the World Cup are currently around 12/1 with Wales and Scotland being seen as real outsiders with odds of around 40/1 and 50/1 respectively.
While Scotland are currently the least likely to succeed according to online bookmakers, they shouldn't be written off completely.
One of the main reasons that Scotland is seen as an outsider is because they find themselves in a group with South Africa and Ireland. Only the top two teams qualify for the knockout stage and Scotland is only the third favourite to win the group at 12/1. As well as Ireland and South Africa, Group B also contains Tonga and Romania, but the odds are even longer for them at 400/1 and 2500/1 respectively.
Scotland's first game of the World Cup is a tough one against South Africa at the Stade Vélodrome, Marseille on the 10th of September. They will be expected to beat Tonga in Nice on the 24th and Romania in Lille on the 30th, before rounding off their tournament (unless they can progress) against Ireland on the 7th of October at the Stade de France in Paris.
Ireland is going into the tournament with confidence as the top-ranked team in the tournament, but Scotland won't be pushovers. In fact, Scotland go into the tournament as the fifth-ranked international team behind Ireland, South Africa, France, and New Zealand.
The luck of the draw, or lack of luck in Scotland's case, has had a big impact on the betting odds for the tournament. All of the top five ranked nations are in the top half of the draw. This means those qualifying from the first group stages will meet each other in the quarter-final.
This is great news for England and Wales who will find a much easier route to the semi-final, giving them a much better chance of victory.
Head Coach Gregor Townsend will understand that any team that wants to win the Rugby World Cup will have to compete against the big teams anyway, and progressing from this group could give the squad the confidence to go even further.
The experienced squad features 15 players that were involved in Japan 4 years ago. While it wasn't the most successful tournament, the team will hope to build on the lessons learned.
At 33 years of age, Grant Gilchrist is about to embark on his third World Cup and will want to make an impact. Richie Gray, WP Nel, and Finn Russell will also be making their third World Cup appearances.
Townsend has picked a strong 33-man squad that includes 14 backs and 19 forwards. Jamie Ritchie will be captain and the flanker will be calling in his teammates to rise to the occasion.
Finn Russell is a talented fly-half who can link up play and bring others into the action. He is one of the more experienced players in the set-up with 71 caps to date. Only Richie Gray has more caps than Russell with 75.
There are a few inexperienced players in the squad, including Ben Healy with just 2 caps, as well as Ollie Smith, Javan Sebastian, and Luke Crosbie with 5 caps.
Rory Darge is a relative newcomer to the international stage, getting the first of his 10 caps against Wales in the 2022 Six Nations tournament. This talented back-row player has the potential to develop into a key player for Scotland and could turn a few heads at this year's World Cup.
Another man who will play a significant part for Scotland in the World Cup is Richie Gray. At 6ft 10, Gray's influence at lineouts can't be underestimated. He pretty much guarantees possession for Scotland and causes no end of problems for their opposition.
Gray's stature was used to great success in the Six Nations against England who struggled under pressure and allowed Scotland the opportunity to break and attack their broken defence.
Gray will be instrumental in their key games against South Africa and Ireland, who are both great lineout teams. If Scotland wants to progress, a victory against at least one of these teams is essential, as well as avoiding any potential disasters against Romania and Tonga.
A recent trend of starting slowly before finishing well saw Scotland defeat England and France in recent fixtures. If Scotland can find a way to start quickly and finish games in the same way, they will have a great chance of getting the results they need to progress to the knockout stages of the France 2023 Rugby World Cup.