ALLISTER Hogg has admitted Scotland will face a battle to progress from the group stages at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Scotland are expected to fight it out with South Africa for top spot in Pool B.
But the back rower, who represented Scotland 48 times between 2004 and 2009, believes Samoa will push them and the Springboks all the way as he thinks the Pacific nations will pack a punch at this year’s tournament.
Observer reporter Geoff Berkeley sat down with Hogg to get his World Cup predictions.
What are your expectations ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup?
“As it’s in England, it will generate a lot of interest due to the home nations. There will be a lot of following for Scotland, Ireland and Wales as well and as it is spread out across the whole of England, there is a big buzz, especially in Newcastle where I play.”
How do you rate England’s chances?
“Obviously they will be there or thereabouts. They have got a tough group, but if they come through that it is just a one-off game where it can comes down to one decision that could decide their fate.
“If they fulfil their potential, they will do well.”
Which country will win the World Cup?
“To be honest it is hard to pick one. You usually go in and you have got your clear favourites, but this year Australia have recently beaten New Zealand, England will be in there or thereabouts and France also look strong as well.
“You have also got South Africa who always perform as well, so it is going to come down to who handles the pressure the best.”
Which country will surprise a few people?
“I think it is going to be one of the Pacific nations. Samoa have got the potential to go well. They have got the big game against Scotland in Newcastle which will make or break that group for either Scotland or Samoa.
“Tonga have also got a lot of good players, so it is going to be one of those teams who produces a few of those upsets.”
Can you give us a name of a player to watch out for?
“It is a hard one to pick, but if you look at Scotland they have picked John Hardie who has only been in the country five weeks, but he his one international appearance went well, so he will be one to watch.
“It is a big risk picking someone who has only player half an hour of international rugby ahead of someone like John Barclay, who has been outstanding for club and county, so it will be interesting to see how well he goes.”