Rugby World Cup 2023: Scotland's nine appearances in nine players

Chris Paterson, Martin Leslie & Stuart Hogg
Chris Paterson, Martin Leslie & Stuart Hogg

2023 Rugby World Cup

Hosts: France Dates: 8 September to 28 October

Coverage: Full commentary of every game across BBC Radio 5 Live, Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and Radio Scotland, plus text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Scotland have played in nine World Cups in seven different countries and in 20 different cities, from Sydney to Saint-Etienne, Pretoria to Paris, Kobe to Invercargill.

There's been one semi-final in 1991, one semi-final that should have been but never was in 2015, a bunch of quarter-finals, and some ignominious early exits.

This is not a revisiting of every tournament, but an exploration of Scotland's World Cup story in nine players, beginning with their first game against the Grand Slam French in Christchurch 36 years ago.

1987: Matt Duncan's what might have beens

France were expected to dominate and to win, but Scotland were magnificent. They went toe-to-toe with the French bruisers and led 16-6 early in the second half. Then it went wrong.

Matt Duncan shipped a tackle that made him wobbly on his feet. Concussion was disregarded back then. As the Scotland players went to see how he was, Serge Blanco tapped and went - and scored. France now led 20-16.

"We were dreaming," said Scotland coach, Derek Grant. "I accept full responsibility," said captain Colin Deans.

A brilliant team try, finished off by Duncan, saw Scotland get a 20-20 draw, but that distracted moment meant they would face eventual champions New Zealand in a quarter-final they would lose instead of Fiji, who they'd have beaten.

So close, so far away.

1991: Gavin Hastings' kick

It's cruel to reduce the great man's World Cup experience to one kick at Murrayfield in the 1991 semi-final against England, but it's hard to get away from it.

The game was awful. Scotland had sickened England in the Grand Slam showdown a year earlier and they had revenge in mind. The semi-final was a kickfest.

At the start of the final quarter, Hastings had a penalty in front of the England posts and, totally out of character, he missed it. England controlled it from there on and won 9-6 thanks to a late Rob Andrew drop-goal.

Pretty, it was not. Painful for Scotland, it most certainly was. It's the closest they've ever come to making a World Cup final.

1995: Doddie Weir's dream double

It was Scotland's misfortune to run into one of the great All Blacks sides in the quarter-final of the 1995 World Cup. It was a testament to their ability that they made a bit of a classic game out of it.

In the 48-30 defeat, one Scot stood out more than any other. It wasn't just Doddie Weir's size that made him noticeable, it was the fact that he scored two tries, thereby joining a select group of players who have achieved that feat against the Kiwis.

In the years that followed, the big man might have mentioned it once or twice. Quite right. He outscored Jonah Lomu in Pretoria that day. Not many lock forwards could have said that. Not many players in any position could have said that.

1999: Martin Leslie's Midas touch

Something of a forgettable World Cup in 1999. Scotland faced Samoa in the quarter-final play-off and the preamble was full of angst from the Scots' perspective.

Yes, they were Five Nations champions, but Samoa had beaten Wales in the group stage and looked like a mighty outfit. Fear abounded.

There was no need. Scotland put Samoa away 35-20 with outstanding back row Martin Leslie weighing-in with another try. One of Scotland's kilted Kiwis, he had now scored six tries in a run of five Tests.

In the quarter-final, the Scots faced the All Blacks - who else? - but Leslie couldn't continue his incredible run and Scotland lost 30-18. Leslie was probably an under-appreciated forward in his adopted land.

2003: Tom's Smith's redemption song

In Australia, Scotland needed to beat Fiji to continue their run of never missing out on the quarter-final, but, Lord, it was a rough day at the Aussie Stadium in Sydney.

The flying machine that was Rupeni Caucaunibuca was unstoppable, scoring two blistering tries to help put Fiji into a 20-15 lead with six minutes left. Disaster loomed.

Then, salvation in the form of Tom Smith getting on the end of a driven line-out to score a try that levelled it, before Chris Paterson banged over the conversion to win it. Like Doddie, Smith is no longer with us. Tragic losses, both. Great, great rugby men.

2007: Chris Paterson's golden boot

Another World Cup and another trip to the dark side in 2007.

Scotland had already lost 40-0 at home to the All Blacks in the pool stage by the time the denouement came against Italy in Saint-Etienne. Win and they were through. Lose and they were out. It was the former, just.

Scottish Rugby should build a statue to Chris Paterson. On a day - and in an era - when Scotland struggled to score tries, it was Paterson's boot they relied upon. He landed six from six and Scotland won 18-16. A quarter-final exit to Argentina followed.

2011: Allan Jacobsen's angry head

It finally happened in New Zealand in 2011 - Scotland failed to make the knockouts. Scratchy wins over Romania and Georgia and defeats by Argentina and England and it was all over.

The abiding memory is of Allan 'Chunk' Jacobsen, the storied prop, speaking in the aftermath of the Pumas loss. Passionate, emotional, furious. It was unforgettable stuff.

We saw him again after Scotland's exit was confirmed with the loss to England and it was an even more angst-ridden Chunk. The big man was in pain. He wasn't the only one. Scottish rugby was in a desperate place in those days. The lowest ebb.

2015: Greig Laidlaw's face

Probably the most thrilling game in Scottish World Cup history - the quarter-final against Australia at Twickenham in 2015, a tour-de-force of unpredictability and thrill-seeking.

Brilliant Scotland, against all expectations, were going through to the semi-final when referee Craig Joubert made an incorrect call in the dying minutes and gave the Wallabies the chance to kick for victory.

Greig Laidlaw knew the wrong call had been made but Joubert was having none of it. He ran off the pitch on full-time but couldn't escape monstrous criticism.

In his own quiet way, Laidlaw was enraged. Him and millions of fellow Scots.

2019: Stuart Hogg's tears

One of the great World Cups in terms of host cities and sensational organisation was also one of the worst for Scotland.

A lamentable opener against Ireland meant they had to beat an excellent Japan by a decent score to go through. They didn't get close.

Stuart Hogg came into the mixed zone in a bit of a state. Upset, red-eyed, full of defiance, but also a sad figure who might have wondered if he'd ever get another chance to put it right.

As it turned out, it was his last shot. Making amends for Japan is in the hands of others now - the class of 2023.