‘Scotland is not even in Ireland’s rearview mirror,’ says a rugby World Cup official.

There was a sense of déjà vu about Scotland as they exited the pitch in Paris and disappeared into the torture chamber of their own inner-sanctum.

Different stadium, different city, different opponent, but the same slow retreat, hang-dog expression, and remarks in the aftermath of Paris on Saturday as there were four years ago in Yokohama, when Japan knocked them out of the World Cup.

It was uncanny how similar it seemed to 2019. Some of the guys were clearly in tears. They were clearly still emotional and perplexed.

Nobody wanted to come. Nobody wanted to ask or answer such questions, but there we were, once again, in nowheresville. On Saturday, Scotland completed a full circle.

Their task against Japan was effectively done after 43 minutes, when the hosts led 28-7.

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Hope didn’t endure quite as long at Stade de France. After a minute, an Irish try, a large Caelan Doris turnover, a Peter O’Mahony line-out steal, and then 18 phases of Scottish pressure, each met with tenacious Irish defense.

Scotland needed to score in those situations. They went all-in on a try, much like a card player in a casino, rather than playing it safe with a kick for points. They also lost. When the run of play came to a close, Scotland’s metre count was in the negative.

They had given Ireland the opportunity to demonstrate how much they like defending by their decision. They enjoy it. They gobble it up wholeheartedly. They’re also insanely skilled at it.

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