MIKE BLAIR has the scars from Scotland’s World Cup history; he has seen the Jekyll and Hyde way the team are capable of playing, the narrow escapes, the embarrassments and the traumatic near-misses. The only solution is to unlock the secret to consistency.

When the team take the park, at the moment neither the players nor the coaches have any idea which version is going to turn up.

Will it be the one that lost a year ago to the USA, or the one that thrashed Argentina a week later? The one that ran in 33 points in less than an hour against Italy or the one that conceded 20 in the final 10 minutes? The one that conceded 31 points in half-an-hour against England or the one that then scored 38 themselves?

“That consistency of performance is something that we, as coaches, have been focusing on and trying to get that message across to the players,” Blair said. “There are some dangerous teams in our pool. You have Samoa, who don’t traditionally gather for long periods before games. They’ll have four to six weeks together to get themselves sorted out, and they have some world-class players all over the place.

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“Japan, as well, playing at home in the last game [of the pool stage]. We don’t know as much about Russia, but they’re a big group of men.

“Everyone is talking about the Ireland game and, yes, first up, all eyes will be on that one but we’re also aware that, if we don’t play to the best of our ability in the other games, they are potential banana skins.”

Blair only has to think back to his own World Cup experiences to understand that Scotland never make things easy for themselves. In 2003, it took a last-minute try and Chris Paterson conversion for them to beat Fiji; four years later it took a last-second penalty miss by their opp-onents to beat Italy. In his final World Cup, they didn’t reach the knockout stage after losing two pool matches, to England and Argentina.

All that experience has helped him understand that every World Cup is unique and that the challenges evolve with every competition.

He recalls, for example, the strange training schedule ahead of the 2003 tournament in Australia, when they took to the hothouse in the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens for training sessions.

“It was bizarre,” Scotland’s assistant coach recalled. “There was the pond in the middle and round the outside there was literally that [about a yard] width before the bushes on the other side. They had the rowing machines lined up. When the big guys were on the rowing machines they would move and they were very close to going in the water.”

Four years later, it was all about bulking up to be as big as possible, so much so that they had to order bigger weights for Jason White.

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“In 2011, I had a foot injury. Everyone always talks about the hellish running we did at the start – people say ‘how did you find that Mike?’ and I basically didn’t do anything until the week before we went to the tournament,” he said.

“There was more running then, it was the start of the transition into games-based conditioning which is something we are really big on now. We don’t do straight-line running for the sake of it, we do a lot of stuff within game scenarios.

“The guys have come back and been tested, there have been huge improvements, not just running in straight lines, but really working on our conditioning within games and on our rugby. The side effect of that is improvement on the pitch.”

It is needed. Those experiences have taught Blair how good Scotland teams in the past have been at making life tough for themselves, and though he insisted history has no effect on the future, he also knows there is a pattern there they have to break.

“Consistency is absolutely crucial for us,” Blair said. “Throughout the Six Nations, in particular, we had some moments of brilliance. There were long periods when we were all over the opposition but we’ve also had periods in games where we’ve almost fallen off a cliff.

“We feel that if we play to the best of our ability we can beat any team in the world but there is a big jump between playing to the best of your ability and not.

“That standard of play, that consistency of play is as relevant against Samoa, Russia or Japan as against Ireland, South Africa or New Zealand.

“There are things we need to get right but if we are able to put exactly what we want on the pitch, we have a chance of being able to beat anyone.”