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Can you pick a Scotland team to beat the All Blacks?

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John Beattie | 12:35 UK time, Friday, 2 November 2012

So next week the All Blacks arrive to play Scotland. But what team would you pick to play them?

I will name the side I think will be facing the Haka and trying to beat them for the first time, and I want you to pick yours too.

Oh, and by the way, what a feeling that would be - beating the All Blacks would be so, so good.

You know I like my history. Or perhaps that should read you know I am history.

The "Originals", the very first All Blacks, toured the UK in 1905 and according to one of the team members, Billy Wallace (surely a Scottish granny in there?), a newspaper described the team as if playing like "all backs" and with just one small typographical error later we had the All Blacks
One "L" of a difference.

But the older I get the more I look at things in terms of my life and although 1905 seems long, long ago it was actually just two of my lifespans. I'm now 54.

In 1905 the All Blacks travelled by boat, with "physical drill" at 7.45am, a morning session with backs and forwards in their own groups, and in the afternoon a variety of drills, including boxing, wrestling and something called the "Sandow developer" to build strength. On their way they dropped into Montevideo and Tenerife.

My kind of boat trip.

They won all their games bar one, against Wales, beating Scotland 12-7 and "West of Scotland" who were effectively Glasgow 22-0. the tallest player was George Nicholson who at 6 feet 3 and 13st 10 was the only player over six feet tall though, after all that training, newspaper reports marvelled a their "impressive physiques".

In 1905 when someone was injured teams continued with fourteen men, players could enter mauls from either side, and defenders were allowed to charge down a conversion from the moment the ball was placed on the ground. Not many conversions were successful unsurprisingly.

Interestingly "football" as it was known at the time was a big game in the USA but a report found that there had been 18 deaths and 149 serious injuries across the country in 1905 and that led to a rethink in the USA with forward passing seen as a means of making the game safer. And "American football" was born.

Ah, the smell of ancient history and winter green hangs powerfully in the nostrils.
But what team will Andy Robinson pick to face the All Blacks?

Well, I think he will be loyal, as far as possible, to the players who brought him success in the Southern Hemisphere.

There were seven uncapped players in the squad and thanks to injuries and religion the front row probably picks itself.

Ryan Grant has developed into the country's best scrummaging loosehead, Ross Ford can concentrate on playing and will be the hooker, and Geoff Cross for my mind is still a great combination of passionate player and ball carrier.

I'd pick Al Kellock in the second row with Richie Gray. Whatever it will be a huge second row with Jim Hamilton the other possible partner to Gray in the boiler house with Gray hopefully over that ankle and the troubles at Sale.

The back row provides a problem. David Denton, for me, was the Scottish player of the Six Nations last season and I am guessing but once you pick your captain, in this case Kelly Brown, you then need to figure out where to pick him.

If David Denton were on fire as he was last year he would be at 8 but there is an argument which says that given Al Strokosh's industry in France and the need for his inclusion that could mean Brown at 8 and Ross Rennie at open side.

For my money I'd go with Denton at 8 with Kelly Brown and John Barclay reunited in the back row.

In the backs Mike Blair has the experience, and Greig Laidlaw is the current stand-off with the blue jersey so I can't another partnership than that.

The centres are trickier to pick, Max Evans may be asked to play there and likewise Nick de Luca and Matt Scott have grown into their centre roles.

It's probably too early for Peter Horne who may have his chance against Tonga.

The All Blacks will be a formidable force and so size could be key further out in the backs. Tim Visser and Sean Lamont - both bigger than the biggest All Black on their 1905 tour - must be in with a shout but Lee Jones has played well for his country and Stuart Hogg could be at fifteen.

The team I'd pick to play the All Blacks is Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Al Kellock, Richie Gray, Kelly Brown, David Denton, John Barclay, Mike Blair, Greig Laidlaw, Tim Visser, Matt Scott, Max Evans, Sean Lamont, Stuart Hogg.

What's yours? And do you think Scotland can beat the All Blacks for the first time?


  • Comment number 1.

    Always tricky as we dont have 40-50 top class players so there are not really the options to make changes.

    The front row picks itself though the form of Ross Ford is a worry, not sure Dougie Hall has done enough to move him and I dont see Scott Lawson often enough to comment.
    In the second row I would be a bit contraversial, I thik the Scottish Scrum looks seriously underpowered when Ritchie Gray plays, Im not sure if it is technique really he looks to be too far up on the hips of the prop forcing his back in when I have watched him, Though he is our best 2nd row in every other department. I also like Kellock for his leadership qualities, I havenothing against Ford being captain but he didnt seem a natural vocal leader. Not sure about Brown but it woul dbe good to have Kellock there are you need pleny of leaders. Hamilton is a big hard beast and he woul dbe my first choice 2nd row as we need a bit on "mongrel" in there.

    Back row I agree with you John, Rennie and Brown are certain, Denton has looked off the pace though was much improved in the Scarlets game, anyone seen much of Vernon? Oh and a lad called Beattie used to be quite handy but seems to have gone quiet in France.

    The importanceo f Mike Blair at edinburgh wasnt apparent until he left and they have lacked a good link player. so really Blair and Laidlaw, mainly because Jackson looks far better when he doesnt have to kick and we dont have that luxury at the moment.

    Centres I am convinced that Hogg eventually will be there, though he needs to play there for Glasgow more regularly. De Luca has not been great but not sure that Horne or Dunbar are really up to it yet. Scott again looked far sharper vs Scarlets at 13 so would give him a go there but there is a massive difference in opposition quality.

    On the wing I would go for Visser and Evans, I think Lamont has had his day im afraid and is a bit predictable, he is big but not huge and quick but not blistering and you need to have something extra to even dent the AB defence, Lamont would be the safe option. Hogg has to play full back until he can play centre and I like the look of Murchie and Tonks, the new Kiwi at Glasgow will be interesting to watch, if he is anthing like his potential we may see hi in the 6N.

    in answer to the other question, no we cant beat the AB but we have to give it a go and you just never know if the ball bounces for you.

  • Comment number 2.

    Lets be honest, even the New Zealand b team would beat Scotland. Sorry to be so negative. Like every true supporter of the Scotland rugby team I would love to see them win next week, for me if that were to happen it would be the greatest victory ever. This New Zealand team are possibly the best or one of the best teams ever to play international rugby. Our only chance is that it rains, New Zealand play rubbish and we take every chance that comes our way.
    On the subject of players, I noticed Mr Murray is not in the squad, is he injured or another reason? As a fellow christian he has every right to miss Sunday games as he chooses, but this could cost him his place on the lions tour to Australia next year. In my opinion Mr Murray is our best prop and on form one of our best players.

  • Comment number 3.

    Probably best to include as many 'in form' players who have played the AB's already. Size is important and so is basic skill together with penalty-free play. The crucial time is the first quarter and our players need to be super-aggressive and up-front confrontational from the start. And we need to score the first try.
    Best we can offer is (in my humble opinion) Hogg; Evans, Lamont, Scott, Visser; Laidlaw, Blair; Grant, Ford, Cross, Kellock, Gray, and in any order Strokosh, Brown & Denton - but I will support whatever combination Andy R comes up with. I would also show the squad the video of the 2nd half of the 2005 game against the AB's where the 2nd half score was 7-7 although the final score was 29-10. And the 1983 drawn game with Mr Beattie playing.

  • Comment number 4.

    Even as a Glasgow fan I'm not sure Barclay and Kellock will start against the ABs next Sunday.
    Kellock is a great leader but we'll desperately need Hamilton's grunt alongside Richie and Barclay can't get the Glasgow openside shirt off Chris Fusaro currently.

    Our front row and centres are a worry for me. I think De Luca has had too many chances and Scott's passing isn't great, but I agree with the above comments that it's too early for Dunbar, Horne and Bennett.

    Hogg has to be at FB for me and Visser will also be key to our attacking game.

    Thinking ahead to the 6 Nations though, i'd like to see the inclusion of Fusaro, Bennett, Horne, Dunbar and (hopefully) Maitland to add more dynamism to our attack.

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm an Edinburgh man living in Glasgow. I support both our pro-teams and I'll be at Murrayfield next week, excited, anticipating and hoping. What an event - I can't wait!

    And I'm quietly optimistic we can raise our game; Robinson, Johnson and Taylor are in place now and settled, and we've got a good blend of experience and youth, pace and bulk, nous and savvy.

    The team I'd send out:

    1 - CHUNK
    2 - FORD
    3 - CROSS
    4 - GRAY
    5 - KELLOCK
    6 - BROWN
    7 - RENNIE
    8 - STROKER/DENTON (I can't decide)
    9 - BLAIR
    10 - LAIDLAW
    11 - T. VISSER
    12 - DUNBAR
    13 - S. LAMONT
    14 - EVANS
    15 - HOGG

    I'd like to see Tonks, Horne and Weir on the bench and getting stuck in about the kiwi mince at some stage.

    Good luck, lads and fingers crossed... three from three, please!

  • Comment number 6.

    I admit it. I love the prospect of the ABs coming to town, the shame is I'm terrified to open my eyes for 80 mins in fear of the thumping we might get.

    Scotland have the same problems that we've had for years now, weak in the front row and poor thru 10 & 12. As much as I like Laidlaw as a player and admire his heads up way of playing stand off, I feel we miss the natural qualities of an out and out stand off. That said I think he's still the best option for now as Jackson doesn't cut it for me.

    For this match I think we need the grunt of Hamilton & Stroker, plus the power of Lamont in midfield
    My team would be ...1 - GRANT 2 - FORD 3 - CROSS 4 - GRAY 5 - HAMILTON 6 - STROKER 7 - RENNIE 8 - BROWN 9 - BLAIR 10 - LAIDLAW 11 - T. VISSER 12 - NDL 13 - S. LAMONT 14 - EVANS 15 - HOGG

    Looking forward to the 11th... bringing some disillusioned football supporters to the Cash4gold stadium (formerly Murrayfield) to show them the light

  • Comment number 7.

    With hopefully a full house next week it will be a great occasion.. The rugby is another story.. There are going to be some great match ups, and as ever it depends on what kind of ball we get (if any) from the forwards, and how laidlaw uses it. Blair has been missed at Edinburgh this year, so if he can get some decent ball and get the up hand over his opposite no 9, then we have a platform.. The big question is we still not possess the shear strength and pace in the forwards that New Zealand do.. The big 3 are also crucial. If lamont plays, he needs to 'play' a big game and ask questions of NZ.. Given all thast, New Zealand by 20..

  • Comment number 8.

    1 - Grant
    2 - Ford
    3 - Cross
    4 - Gray
    5 - Hamilton
    6 - Denton
    7 - Rennie
    8 - Brown
    9 - Blair
    10 - Laidlaw
    11 - Visser
    12 - Scott
    13 - De Luca
    14 - Evans
    15 - Hogg

  • Comment number 9.

    Does it matter? We are going to get stuffed no matter who we pick. Let's face it the NZ under 21 team could beat the current Scotland side.

  • Comment number 10.

    Glad to see you back John. Didn't have much to say whilst Edinburgh were being humiliated by all and sundry in the Rabo and Heineken Cup did you? Was that all just too embarrassing or were you hoping to keep a low profile after your wild predictions earlier? Scotland will get whacked, Murrayfield won't even be full and it will be a national embarrassment.

  • Comment number 11.

    Does not matter what team Scotland pick, they will not be able to live with the pace and power of the All Blacks for 80 minutes. Best scenario is perhaps a 12 point or less defeat. It is likely Hansen will start with some of the less experienced players and this should keep the match competitive into the second half. Otherwise, Come on Scotland!!

  • Comment number 12.

    I agree with the front row - it picks itself. As much as I love Chunk, space needs to be made for his successor and that's found in Ryan Grant. Despite Ford's form sometimes being shaky, I've never seen Lawson or Hall seriously challenging for 2, and you need Ford's leadership. I still see Murray as one of the best tightheads in the game - anyone aware why he's not in the squad? (Regardless of being unavailable for the Sunday game against ABs anyway) but Cross is a powerhouse anyway.

    Moving to the row, obviously I'd put Gray at 4, but with Gray now most likely being out, big Jim Hamiltonwill be moving there for me. Kellock was always my choice at 5 - for me he's consistent and brings leadership. Tom Ryder on the bench.

    Back row is where it gets tricky. Strockosh and Denton have been outstanding in their recent Scotland outings, but with a return of Kelly Brown at captain that leaves it tricky. Ideally, I would love to see a back row featuring the 3 of them, but that leaves out an out and out openside. Barclay and Rennie are fantastic players, but I haven't seen them perform very well for Ed and Glasgow recently. I'd go with Stroker at 6, Brown at 7 and Dents at 8, with Rennie on the bench. It'd be great to see Harley back in the squad when he's back from injury.

    Half backs are Blair and Laidlaw, no question. Blair's been electric in the Scotland jersey, and is by far and away the best out of the 3 Scotland scrummies - not to mention leadership and experience. His partnership with Laidlaw back at Edinburgh gives them experience, again with Laidlaw's captaincy at Edinburgh offering a commanding role. We need to see more of Duncan Weir, but with the injury it'll be Jackson on the bench.

    I'm not too sure about centres. I hope we see Evans back at 13, he has some spark and creativity other than the Morrison/Lamont-crash-ball-bosh-it-up attitude at 12, and it's always a shame to see him wasted on the wing. I'd probably say Scott at 12, I really don't rate NDL in a Scotland jersey. It'd be good to blood Horne and Dunbar but... not against the All Blacks. I'm not too confident about 12 to be honest, they'll have a hard job fronting up against Nonu...

    One wing undoubtly have to be Visser, and I'd give to other to Sean Lamont. I haven't seen anyone play with more heart in a Scotland jersey than Lamont, and he offers bundles of experience.

    And Hogg at 15. Goes without saying.

    1. Grant
    2. Ford
    3. Cross
    4. Hamilton
    5. Kellock
    6. Strockosh
    7. Brown
    8. Denton

    9. Blair
    10. Laidlaw
    11. Visser
    12. Scott
    13. Evans
    14. Lamont
    15. Hogg

    16. S Lawson
    17. so many injuries... Chunk? Traynor? blood Gilchrist?
    18. Ryder
    19. Rennie
    20. R Lawson
    21. Jackson
    22. Lee Jones/ NDL/ blood Dunbar/Horne ?


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