Greig Laidlaw wary of World Cup seeding ahead of Argentina clash
Scotland skipper Greig Laidlaw has warned his side to make sure Saturday's clash with Argentina does not lead to dire consequences for their World Cup ambitions.
The Dark Blues - ranked ninth in the world, one place behind the Pumas - can overtake the South Americans with a win at Murrayfield this weekend.
Defeat, however, could have grave knock-on effects.
The draw for Japan 2019 takes place next May - two-and-a-half years before the competition kicks-off - and governing body World Rugby will use its rankings to calculate the seeding for the pool stage.
Scotland were named in the batch of third seeds at last year's tournament after sliding down the global pecking order.
While Vern Cotter's men were fortunate on that occasion as they ended up being paired with second seeds Samoa rather than one of the game's major players, Laidlaw is worried the Scots will not get it so lucky next time.
He said: "The rankings issue is clearly very important. When you have World Cups coming up they are always in the back of your mind.
"We certainly don't want to drop out of the pot of second seeds. I'd rather not be doing that if we can help it. World Cups are hard enough.
"Statistically in the past, it has been shown that teams always play better at the World Cup, so we want to give this Scotland side the best possible chance of getting as far in the competition as possible.
"Even though it's further down the line, it's important we win as many games as we can."
But the Gloucester scrum-half is confident his side will now be weighed down by the pressure to start climbing their way back up the rugby ladder.
"We just concentrate on ourselves," he said. "We'll try to get in that mindset that we are making sure we don't give away penalties and that we play for the full 80 minutes.
"If we do that we'll have a much better chance of winning and that will take care of the world ranking points.
"The rankings certainly won't be something we talk about on the field. It is just about the process. What do we need to do? What is going well? What do we need to sharpen up on."
Laidlaw admits his side will certainly have to be sharper than they were at the weekend, when they once again contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Leading 22-16 against 14-man Australia with just four minutes remaining, they allowed the Wallabies to strike late on, with Bernard Foley kicking the points needed for a narrow 23-22 win.
In the aftermath of Saturday's disappointment, both Laidlaw and head coach Cotter struggled to hide their frustration with the display of referee John Lacey.
The Irish official handed the Aussies eight second-half penalties but the Scots received just two.
However, having re-examined the footage of their opening autumn Test, Laidlaw was left to admit the Scots had played a significant role in their own downfall.
He said: "We can always be smarter. A couple of boys will be disappointed with some of the penalties that were given away and which allowed Australia to hold onto field position.
"We were pretty upset with each other and some of the decisions we made. We made mistakes at crucial times and when we spoke about it after the game we realised it was down to our ill-discipline.
"Australia were running out of options but we gave them penalties that allowed them to get field position and that's what hurt us.
"We need to keep discipline in our shape and what we are trying to do and have confidence when we have our hands on the ball."
Laidlaw now hopes Scotland's concentration levels will hold out against an Argentine line-up he believes have made significant strides in recent months.
He said: "Credit to Argentina because they have realised they need to change their game. I'm not sure whether that is because they have joined the Rugby Championship or not but they are a good team to watch.
"Hopefully they won't be that good this weekend and we can get up and put some pressure on them.
"They score a lot of tries - I think they've scored the most tries of any side from kick-off receipts over the last four or five games, so if you sit back off them, they are a dangerous side. "