Scotland v Colombia: A rollercoaster journey that gained momentum five years and a day ago comes down to 80 minutes

By Gary Heatly

Five years and a day and it all comes down to this…

The first Six Nations triumph since 2010 back on February 24, 2017, against Wales at Broadwood showed what Scotland are capable of – and ever since then this group have been striving to make it to the World Cup.

In truth, the journey probably goes back longer than that as ever since the Scots lost out in a two-legged play-off to Spain in November 2016 to miss out on the 2017 World Cup in Ireland, a large batch of the current squad have made it their main focus to make sure they get to the next showpiece event.

However, it was that 15-14 victory over Wales on a cold night that was the catalyst for what has come since and gave the squad a bit of belief that was sorely lacking previously.

Before the 2017 event qualifiers, Scotland had also missed out on the World Cup in France in 2014 and the last few years have certainly not been without there ups and downs.

The head coaching baton has passed on from Shade Munro to Philip Doyle to Bryan Easson while results have not always gone the team’s way and the 2021 World Cup was shifted back a year because of the pandemic.

And, off the field, in recent months the players and coaching staff have been dealing with their toughest challenge of all, the passing away of squad member Siobhan Cattigan aged just 26 in late November.

Standing in Scotland’s way of making it to the World Cup in New Zealand in October and November – where they would join the hosts, Australia and Wales in Pool A of the 12-team event – are Colombia.

Colombia do not have a rich history in Test rugby and Scotland have found footage of the 25th ranked team in the world hard to come by.

As a result, ninth in the world Scotland will start as overwhelming favourites in the Sevens Stadium in Dubai, but having seen Colombia shock Kazakhstan in the semi-final, Easson, captain Rachel Malcolm and their charges are certainly taking nothing for granted.

Easson has picked his strongest starting XV available – minus the 25-cap second-row Sarah Bonar who has an ankle injury and the suspended 30-cap centre Hannah Smith – and the starting XV have 515 caps between them.

There are another 55 caps to call upon off the bench while second-row Eva Donaldson and former England scrum-half Caity Mattinson could make their debuts from there.

“It was quite an easy decision for me to make to be honest,” Easson said about his starting team.

“When you look at a game like this experienced heads help, especially because the team is under a bit more pressure than we have been before.

“I think picking the experienced group gives us the focus that we require.

“We are not going to deny what getting to a World Cup would mean to everybody, but obviously we have focused on the game this week and our strategy.

“A lot of this group of players played the qualifiers in 2013 and a lot played the qualifiers in 2016, so some of them have been waiting nine years and have been working very hard for this.

“They have been on a long journey and to get to a World Cup – and a World Cup in New Zealand at that – well that would be the ultimate for everyone.”

Let’s hope five years and a day on from that Wales win the feeling is just as sweet as that one was…

The Scotland versus Columbia final World Cup qualifier (kick-off 7pm local time, 3pm UK time) will be live on BBC ALBA and World Rugby’s YouTube channel on Friday, February 25

 Rachel Malcolm, the Scotland captain, is pictured by Scottish Rugby at the team run in Dubai on Thursday