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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 September, 2003, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Plenty to prove

By Gordon Bulloch
Scotland international

The thought of taking part in a World Cup has got the whole squad buzzing - it obviously represents the pinnacle of most players' careers and we're raring to go.

Obviously we've not had the best preparation for the World Cup with some disappointing results and performances in our warm-up matches.

To be honest, though, we're not really concerned by that and I wouldn't read too much into it.

In these games, the guys are keeping fit as much as anything and I think it will be different when it comes down to the hard facts of keeping ourselves in the World Cup.

Despite what people might say, steering clear of injury is always at the back of players' minds in games like those, whereas if you've got one match to stay in the tournament, there would be no holding back.

Off the pitch, our preparation has been good. As well as our traditional ball-work, we've done a lot of team-building exercises in different environments, which has been good for bringing the squad together.

Once we get across to Australia, we'll be doing a lot of acclimatisation work, with sessions in the hottest part of the day to get us used to playing in that type of heat.

The usual suspects will be there or thereabouts come the semi-finals but we have a chance of getting there
The tour of Canada and the USA last year will have given the players an idea of what it's like to play in high temperatures, but the squad is fitter than ever now.

As far as a successful World Cup is concerned, we're looking at making the quarter-finals minimum. Anything less than that and we'll feel we've let ourselves down.

We've got to aim to rack up a few tries and put in a couple of good performances in our first two games against Japan and the USA in order to lift the spirit and confidence of the squad.

Tries are all important - we've seen in past tournaments New Zealand notch 150 points against Japan and, without being disrespectful, we've got to look to put as many points past the so-called inferior oppiosition.

That would set us up nicely for the trip to Sydney to face France. There'll be a lot of Scots fans there and if we can catch France unawares early in the match and put a bit of a lead together, I don't see any reason why we can't beat them.

It's so important that we take our chances. That's been Scotland's problem for some time - getting a lot of possession in the opposition 22 without capitalising on it and then letting other teams put five points by us too regularly.

Gordon Bulloch is tackled by Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll
Scotland's recent performance have been poor
So we know that we need to concentrate more in defence, while showing more patience when attacking, because we know that if we can put together a few minutes of sustained pressure, something has got to give.

While I think the usual suspects will be there or thereabouts come the semi-finals, I firmly believe we have a chance of getting there.

If you look at the teams in Group A, with Ireland, Australia and Argentina all vying for two places, there could be a lot of tired bodies and injuries coming out of that group and that could be to our advantage.

In terms of the eventual winners, England, as usual, have got a lot of hype - rightly on their form of the last couple of years - and they'll be the team to beat, while New Zealand have been on form this summer.

But neither of those two are at their best when it comes down to finishing tournaments and with Australia coming in for a lot of criticism, they have a lot to prove and as they showed against the Lions two years ago, that's when they're at their most dangerous.





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