Tomorrow in Monaco the draw will take place for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, the second most important tournament in football after the World Cup itself. The final set of participants won’t be known until after tomorrow night when hopefully Rangers will join Celtic in that draw by defeating PSV Eindhoven. The more Scots in European competition the better it is for Scotland as a whole.

The first group stage matches will take place on September 19, less than three weeks after tomorrow’s draw.  So how come UEFA can organise a draw just 20 days before the tournament starts while World Rugby held its draw for the forthcoming World Cup in France almost THREE YEARS ago?

You can only conclude that the footie people are so much better at organising things than the Dublin blazerati. The whole saga reeks of amateurism rather than the professional approach we should expect for this, the tenth World Cup which is taking place 28 years after rugby union stopped being an amateur sport. 

I know we have been promised changes in future but that’s no use to Scotland now. We haven’t quite been robbed yet, not least because Gregor Townsend’s men are in such good form, but it definitely looks like it to me.

It was back on December 14, 2020, that the draw for the 2023 World Cup took place in Paris, using the world rankings as they stood on January 1, 2020, so that even at the draw, standings were already changed. 

Those 2020 rankings are now almost four years out of date and the situation has changed utterly since then. It means that Scotland, then ranked 9th and now 5th, have suffered a monumental injustice because in January, 2020, world champions South Africa were ranked No 1, and Ireland No. 5. 

Now we have the Irish top of the rankings and South Africa No 2, meaning that Scotland must face the two best teams in the world in Pool B while England, for instance, who were ranked No 3 in January, 2020, have now slipped to No. 8. Their conquerors of last weekend, Fiji, are now ranked one above England, whose main rivals in Pool D, Argentina, have risen from No 10 in January, 2020, to No 6 in the latest rankings published on Monday. 

The disparity between then and now is even worse when you look at Wales who were 4th in the world in January, 2020, and have now slipped to No 10.       

READ MORE: Kyle Steyn on Scotland challenge to face South Africa

It is blisteringly unfair that Scotland must face the world’s top two which leaves us with a very slim chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals. The final warm-up matches at the weekend confirmed my view that South Africa will be all but impossible to beat given their thrashing of the All Blacks, and our best chance of progressing is to beat Ireland who showed against Samoa that they have some frailties. We can only hope that our Celtic cousins have a seriously bad day at the office on October 7 in the Stade de France, but I suspect we’ll be going home after that match. 

I’m afraid I get rather sceptical about those claims that on our day, Scotland can beat any team in the world. Yes we beat France on aggregate in our two warm-up matches, and we eventually gave Georgia a thorough thumping on Saturday – five tries to nil is a bashing in anybody’s books – but while we enjoyed considerable spells of dominance in all four warm-ups, we will need to put together an 80 minute performance to prevail against our most important rival in Pool B, namely Tonga.

Qualification for the 2027 World Cup will be determined as before by the results in the pool stages, and Scotland must beat Tonga and Romania to gain third place and automatic qualification for 2027. Anything worse will be disastrous and anything better than that will be a bonus, but even if we do get into the quarter-finals we will be playing either New Zealand or France, and I don’t see us progressing further.   

So realistically we must beat Tonga, ranked no 15 in the world, down two places from the start of 2020.  I will preview that match before the meeting in Nice on September 24, but already I am sounding a warning that Tonga are no walkovers, even if they did labour to beat Canada in their final warm-up match.    

I will also give my verdict next week on how I think the tournament will go generally, but all I can say at this point is that I am hugely excited at the prospect of the very best rugby being played in a World Cup that may contain numerous surprises.         

I only hope one of those surprises is Scotland making it out of the group stage despite us being handed a monumental task by the incompetence of World Rugby.