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Why Test rookie Stafford McDowall wrote off his Scotland chances

By PA
Stafford McDowall at Scotland training in 2019 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Stafford McDowall knows his debut outing for Scotland against Italy this Saturday could be pivotal to his prospects of making the World Cup squad. However, the 25-year-old Glasgow centre is determined not to let the pressure of trying to secure a place in the final 33-man pool for the autumn showpiece in France detract from his enjoyment of winning his first cap.

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With Sione Tuipulotu, Huw Jones and Chris Harris almost certain to be in the squad, McDowall appears to be vying with Cam Redpath for the fourth centre berth as head coach Gregor Townsend prepares to streamline his 41-man group after next weekend’s warm-up match at home to France.

Given the low ebb he was at a year ago – after losing his way under previous Glasgow head coach Danny Wilson – McDowall is simply revelling in the fact he is even in contention for a place at the World Cup.

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“For any player, it’s something they dream of their whole life to get a cap for their country, so I’m really excited for the game on Saturday,” he said. “It’s my first cap and you don’t know how often these opportunities are going to come around.

“I have worked hard to get to this point after a tough couple of years so I’m determined to go out and enjoy it on Saturday and not put too much pressure on myself, because a year ago I didn’t think I’d be sitting in this position.”

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McDowall has loved being part of the pre-World Cup training squad over the past couple of months and is philosophical about the prospect of the upcoming cull. “It’s a massively-exciting period,” he said. “You watch Rugby World Cups growing up and you see how special a time it is for people. Even just being part of the training squad has been unbelievable.

“The learnings I have taken out of the camp so far will help me along in my career in the future. Hopefully, there is still more to come but I’m just focused on Saturday at the moment and trying to make the most of that opportunity.

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“It’s going to be a tough time if you don’t make the squad, but even if you don’t make the squad, the learnings you can take from being in this camp will do you good in the future. It’s an amazing experience even if you don’t manage to go to the World Cup.”

McDowall earned his first Scotland call-up in 2019 but at this time last year, he feared his time as a top-level rugby player was over as he fretted over whether he would get a new deal at Glasgow after losing his way. A resurgence under Warriors head coach Franco Smith over the past season, however, has helped him back into the international picture.

“Not really, to be honest,” he said when asked if he could envisage his current status at this time last year. “The first thing for me was to get back playing well for Glasgow and then hopefully the rest would take care of itself – and thankfully that is something I have managed to do over the past season.

“I got back into the Glasgow team more regularly and started playing well again. Then I got in here (to the Scotland set-up) and now I’m getting my first cap.”

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Turlough 5 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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