World Rugby vice-chairman John Jeffrey believes Scotland have arrived at the Rugby World Cup with their strongest team of all time and are now operating at a level that will strike fear into the top nations on the planet.
The 64-year-old, who won 40 caps in dark blue and was a star of the 1990 Grand Slam-winning team, was at the Scots’ lavish welcome ceremony just off the waterfront in Nice where he addressed the squad and told them he views them as the best group of players the nation has ever assembled.
“I think this is the best Scotland team ever,” he told the PA news agency afterwards. “If you look at where we’re ranked, fifth in the world, that’s the highest we’ve ever been ranked.
“And also if you look at the way we play, we’ve got back to the way that is traditionally Scottish. We play a game that suits us.
“And there’s no reason why, despite being in the supposed group of death, we can’t qualify from the group.”
Scotland share a World Cup pool with Ireland and South Africa, the two highest-ranked teams in the world, but Jeffrey believes Gregor Townsend’s side will be viewed with some trepidation by anyone they come up against.
“Gregor’s been there seven years and implemented the style of play and taken it on to a different level,” he said. “Everybody you speak to compliments the style of rugby we’re trying to play. It’s just a matter of executing it when you play the number one and number two teams in the world in your group.
“It’s a great challenge but historically Scotland play better when they’re underdogs.
“On our day, every one of the top teams in the world will be scared of us. Speaking to people 12 months ago, everyone would say Ireland and South Africa are going to qualify. Speak to people now and they’ll say it’s between three teams. The chance is there, let’s take it.”
Scotland lock Scott Cummings admitted it was an honour to hear his team described in such glowing terms by such a highly-regarded former player.
“Comments like that obviously mean a lot,” said Cummings. “To be involved in a squad that’s getting talked about like that from a legend of the game like John Jeffrey is a huge deal to all of us.”