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Samoans hold key to the quarter-finals in 2015

It was a rare if not unique situation that Scotland's rugby players found themselves in yesterday when drawn in a pool for a major championship against Samoa, a team who were in a higher tier of seeds yet have never beaten them.

The win achieved in Apia last summer thanks to Rob Harley's last-ditch debut try may have been narrow, but it was enough to ensure that the current crop of players maintain a psychological advantage first established when Gavin Hastings tore into their opponents' countrymen in the opening stages of the 1991 World Cup quarter-final with the Scotland pack in hot pursuit.

The June victory may only have provided Andy Robinson with a stay of execution at the time, or at least it most certainly should have given the disastrous sequence of results that preceded that strange little tour.

However, it was a result that could yet prove invaluable to his long-term successor, whoever that may be, come the 2015 World Cup, given yesterday's draw and the importance it placed on the meeting of the second and third seeded sides in Pool B.

If, as it is understood, Samoa are to join Scotland in visiting odds-on Pool B favourites South Africa for some tournament play next summer, then more work will have to be done for that upper hand to be maintained in this particular rivalry.

However, whereas Wales have suffered a succession of embarrassments at the hands of the South Sea islanders, losing four times in seven meetings with Samoa, it would seem there is something about this particular match-up that favours Scotland. Admittedly, even before last summer's meeting, Scotland had been taken close in this fixture, being held to a draw in 1995 and only avoiding another two years ago when Ruaridh Jackson held his nerve to knock over the match-winning penalty at the death in Aberdeen. However, there have been several big Scottish wins too. Compare and contrast that eight-game unbeaten run with Scotland's record against Argentina, who went into it ranked below Samoa – albeit only by a thousandth of a decimal point or so – and just how fortuitous this World Cup draw has been could not be more apparent. In 12 meetings with the Pumas, Scotland have won only four times.

In terms of the top seeds in the pool, the one thing Scotland wanted to avoid was a meeting with New Zealand's All Blacks, and to find themselves in the other half of the draw from the world champions could not give them a better chance of making maximum progress in the competition.

There is not a chance of Scotland going into a meeting with the two-time champion Springboks as favourites in their pool match, of course, but the comparison with the alternatives is again encouraging.

They may have won only two of their last 10 meetings with the South Africans but both have come in autumnal British conditions and while they have also won twice against Australia's Wallabies, one of those was last summer's midweek tour game, while they have lost all bar one of their meetings with France in the same period.

None of which will matter a jot if Scotland do not improve their form beyond recognition by 2015 when the last performance we have to judge them by is that disgraceful effort against Samoa's South Seas neighbours from Tonga last month.

Consequently, Mark Dodson, the SRU's chief executive, was quite right to place most of the emphasis on the task immediately at hand yesterday, rather than getting overly excited about the prospects for a tournament that is a long, long way away.

"Clearly there is a lot of work needing to be done before 2015 and the first task for me is to bring in the right head coach, someone who can get the best out of this group of players and make the country proud of their national team," he said.

"It's just 10 days since Andy [Robinson] decided to step down but we have already received a number of applications for the job. We are reviewing these as well as looking at home and abroad for the best candidate to take Scotland forward to the Rugby World Cup.

"We have the RBS 6 Nations just round the corner and, given the timescales involved, we are looking at the possibility of an interim appointment as we don't want to rush into making the decision."

Admittedly, the best aspect from a Scottish perspective of this early announcement of the World Cup draw is that it provides some time in which to weigh up what needs to be done.

Whether there is enough of that in which to build a team capable of reaching the knockout stages this time remains to be seen, but team manager Gav Scott, the one born-and-bred Scot among the trio of officials named as having represented the SRU yesterday, seemed to grasp what Scotland's real strategic target must be.

"All World Cups are a big logistical exercise but with the tournament being held in England this time round, we're looking forward to the challenge and what it could do to inspire the next generation of talent," he said.

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