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Can Scotland outmuscle the All Blacks?

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John Beattie | 11:24 UK time, Friday, 9 November 2012

How do Scotland beat the All Blacks? Do you think we can?

Kamate, Kamate, Ka Ora Ka Ora. Yup, former Scotland scrum half Roy Laidlaw and I sat up very late in Northern New Zealand with a travelling troupe of Maori dancers and learned the Haka in 1983.

Oh, I can be cynical at times, but the All Black Haka is one of the great wonders of the world, as are the All Blacks.

I played the All Blacks for the first time for Glasgow way back in 1979. I turned up in my car, aged 21, to watch their bus arrive at the then Pond Hotel in Glasgow's west end.

The car's engine stopped purring as I turned the key; I looked around this strangely busy car park.

To my left was the Glasgow coach Bill Dickinson, trying to look anonymous under a cloth cap and slumped in his car, and at least three of my team mates were dotted around the car park in their cars.

Scotland face a huge task against the mighty All Blacks at Murrayfield

The All Blacks were a draw even for future opponents. We were beaten 9-3 or something similar and thought we should have won at a packed Hughenden.

But that was just the point. The All Blacks won.

And in a 105-year history of touring this country they have never been beaten by us.

And no wonder, frankly, if you take a look at the remarkable skills on display in the All Blacks "Pick Me" videos on Youtube: all that catching balls from behind looks tough.

And just looking through this New Zealand team to play Scotland it is remarkable in its strength.

Piri Weepu, for me, has always been one of the world's great scrum halves.

Richie McCaw has possibly been the world's top back row forward. Cory Jane and Israel Dagg are remarkable attack runners, Dan Carter would get in any team's first XV, and the All Blacks, frankly, hate losing.

This is the bit where you call me an eternal optimist.

I think Scotland can win this game; I have a worry as to whether big Richie Gray is fully fit, and our half backs might be light and targeted by New Zealand, as will the midfield.

Nevertheless, it's a balanced side and probably mighty hacked off at winning their big games away from home and not at Murrayfield.

You see, if you win in Australia, as Scotland did in the summer, it's not classified as a "real" result: It wasn't in the World Cup nor the Six Nations.

So, Andy Robinson's men have the chance to get away from the strife at Sale, the erratic form of Edinburgh and get back in the groove.

If Scotland do turn up, don't get overawed, and treat Murrayfield as a place to be confident, then this game can be won.

Bad weather or good, Scotland can beat the world's greatest rugby team. Now John, settle down, or you will have a heart attack.

Right you lot, how do you think the game will go?

Follow John Beattie on twitter on @bbcjohnbeattie


  • Comment number 1.

    Much as I would love to see this (already have tickets), I will drink out my toilet if Scotland win.
    We have too many injuries, too weak in the back line and are outclassed in every area of the field. Even so hopefully we put in a respectable performance.

  • Comment number 2.

    Oh John. Oh John. Oh. John.

    I love your optimism, but I will repeat a tweet I sent you during the world cup. It's not the despair. I can live with the despair. It's the hope I can't stand.

    My gut feel is that if we lose by less than 40 points we will have done well. The Scotland team are talented and have a couple of stand outs, but will not be able to live with the ABs' pace and intensity from prop to full back, from minute 1 to minute 80.

    We may even keep it close for 60 minutes, but there will be a lapse at some point which will open the floodgates. It's too familiar a story for anyone who has watched Scotland over the years.

    The ABs will say all the right things before the match, talk about how they respect Scotland and the rugby heritage, how there is a special link between the nations. They will be gracious in victory with some condesending nonsense about how we made a game of it, how we're close to being the finished article, how we should expect to do well in the 6N.

    My prediction: big AB victory - between 40 and 50 points on the board. Scotland fail to cross the whitewash: 9 points - 6 for Greig & 3 for RJ when Greig needs replaced after having been run over by McCaw.

    I say this, not as a slight against our squad - they are good players - but as a genuine appraisal of the difference in standard between the individual players AND the way they play as a team. We lack the intensity, we lack the support running to continually recycle the ball and ultimately we lack the belief.

    I soooooooo hope I am proved wrong.

  • Comment number 3.

    I applaud your faith in Piri but Aaron Smith is the man. A worthy successor to Sid Going in a position we've struggled with. Beyond that, I hope the Scots just get stuck right in. The ABs will be grateful for a good hit-out first up and tend to be a bit slow ( by their standards ) in the first game of a series of games. They very rarely have to operate behind the gain line so pressure for a full 80 minutes is a must.

  • Comment number 4.

    Not so bad watching Scotland v All Blacks, will probably be an exhibition demolition but if we give them a run for their money we'll all feel great. More worried about 6 nations....we have to do better there, please.

    Time to come back from The Olympics, Mr Beattie! (See profile...)

  • Comment number 5.

    It is only a game. The All Blacks don't understand that, and for that we should pity them.

  • Comment number 6.

    Incidentally in this article: it is claimed our last outing was against Australia. I believe it was against Samoa, having also played Fiji in the interim. You may want to have a chat with Geoff Webster.

    It's not only indicitave of the care the BBC pay to Scottish sport in general, it's pretty disrespectful to Fiji and Samoa.

  • Comment number 7.

    Mr Beattie,

    I share your optimism. It's far too easy to be negative.

    Negaholics should turn away now or risk suffering a neg-attack reading my 'reasons to be cheery' through their filters of negativity. I don't want to be responsible for perpetuating any more cases of 'Hole in the Soul Syndrome' (

    Confidence is king. I read - in the New Zealand Herald online - that previous Scotland teams have been overawed by the All Blacks; paralysed by fear and respect but I get a sense from interviews and articles that the younger players aren't infected by the misfortunes of past encounters.

    Hogg's looking as sharp and nippy as he was last season but with added bulk and no loss in confidence. He'll be entertaining to watch, dangerous in attack and he's rather good under the high ball.

    Visser! The man scores tries for fun and oozes confidence too which undoubtedly will rub off on the other guys.

    Lamont's always a threat and is great at bulldozering his way through defences and gaining the hard yards. He's without doubt one of the most passionate and committed players in the team (or any of the home unions).

    Blair and Laidlaw, together again... despite being seperated in club and by the channel crossing, they know each others' games and styles of play. They'll control and create in equal measure. I'm looking forward to seeing them at work again.

    NDL and Scott in the centre is solid for defence, they work together at Edinburgh and they're a proven combination, and their distribution is good which will be essential.

    Hamilton and Gray will (should) retain line outs and perhaps steal a few too. The forwards look solid overall. And I'm pleased to see Stroker starting; aggressive and powerful.

    And my final two reasons to be cheerful;

    CAPTAIN BROWN! & ROBINSON, JOHNSON and TAYLOR (settled and experienced management).

    We won a clean sweep in Austalasia. We can win on Sunday as long as we get in about New Zealand's mince, make it uncomfortable, unsettle them and create doubt in their minds.

    And to add to the controversy of predicting a Scotland victory, my predictions for the other matches:


    I'll be there on Sunday. COME ON SCOTLAND!

  • Comment number 8.

    Dave, I hope you are right and I am wrong.

  • Comment number 9.

    Simon, I suspect you'll be proved right but it's good (and foolhardy sometimes) to hope. And expect. And dream.

    Whatever the outcome, it'll be a cracking game and a great event.

  • Comment number 10.


    If the article in the Herald was by Chris Rattue then you would probably get more sense from consulting the Stone of Scone. The man's just in it for the stir-up and most NZers pay him no heed ( he famously wanted Graham Henry dumped for Robbie Deans in 2007 ).

    Having said that I hope that you are right and the youngsters are unaffected by the past. Scotland were very very close to the ABs in 1990 in NZ and were one of the fancied teams in 1991. I'd love to see them get back to that sort of level. Sadly I think the death of the ( old style ) ruck has robbed them of one of their greatest weapons.

    Hopefully the ABs win by 7 tries to 5.

  • Comment number 11.

    I 'm afraid I'm with Simon. I used to be like Dave, all young and innocent, naive, trotting off to Murrayfield, always believing, never giving up hope, only to witness another massacre at the hands of the southern hemisphere. I'm sorry John , Dave etc...... You are all DELUDED DELUDED DELUDED. IT will be a massacre akin to Glencoe, Rorke's Drift, (insert any one-sided historical event here). There will be white shirted bodies littering the turf, bloodied by another rampage from Nonu and MCaw, shrouded in the smoke left over from yet another pointless firework display that the SRU seem intent on letting off at the beginning of every game. I really want us to win but it just ain't goin to happen. 2 things to cling onto. Celtic V Barcelona and remember that Wales and Ireland not so long ago were as bad as us, we will get better in my lifetime, I hope. I am only 34!! 55-0 to the AB's Goodnight Vienna. Thanks for coming.

  • Comment number 12.

    panamaroadotahuhu2 - It wasn't Rattue's article, though I have read the one you're thinking of. The guy's a troll, he write's trash (Scots are "cavemen" and the Welsh are "village idiots") and his passion for his team poisons his perceptions of all others. It's rather sad.

    NewHolland7030 - I can see why you might mistake my positivity for naivety but as a 30 year old man myself, and a fervent supporter of both our pro-teams, I like to think I'm just using a different calculation of the facts. Albeit, my calculation's probably going to be proved highly inaccurate. I was never any good at maths.

    Anyway, I think our players are good enough. The team, management, stadium and 67,000 fans are all good enough. I think we can do it!...

    Kia manuia (good luck)!

  • Comment number 13.



  • Comment number 14.

    Sorry for being negative. I am an optimist really!!!! You are winning me round. My wife just had a right go at me for being so negative!! I had just come in from work when I wrote my post and had had a particularly bad day at the office!!. It all came spilling out.
    For what it's worth I think Robinson has selected the best team available to him. As you listed, they all have many qualities and i am excited about seeing Hogg again and Visser for the first time at a home international. Sorry, here comes the negative again: My only slight niggle is about Lamont and NDL. Lamont has been awesome in the past and we definitely need him for the AB's with his power and bulk, butI just think that that is all he is. Power and bulk. He seems a bit one dimensional and maybe we should be trying a few more of these young things from the Pro Teams like, Murchie, Seymour, etc.. OK maybe we should wait to the Tonga match to try those guys out and that would be a fair comment. As for NDL. Again he is brilliant for Edinburgh but he simply dire when he plays for Scotland. Never ending Knock ons, and fumbles, tackling people without the ball!! He seems to panic when under real pressure. Not that I could do it!!! Would have liked to see Evans in the centre with Scott. He is always electric and adds a bit of zip when he's on. Glad to see Pyrgos is on the bench. I have watched Glasgow a bit when they come down here. (I am an exile, in the West Midlands, from Aberdeenshire originally, why no pro team for North East bring back Caledonia Reds!!!. But that's another story!)
    Think Pyrgos has played really well he is a bit slower in his distribution but incredibally brave. Saw him against Bath last season in the Heineken Cup and he put his body on the line every time.
    Anyway as i write this I am looking forward to it although I won't be there myself. Have fun and come on Scotland!!!!

  • Comment number 15.

    No worries.

    I've never really subscribed to the notion that pessimism and self-doubt, especially in Scottish sport are our default settings but I do think it's a generational problem (though I realise this sentiment's potentially opening a can of worms) and there has been - as a sweeping generalisation - a lifetime of naysayers and dour faced disbelievers. In truth though, we do damn well for a wee nation with a small population and a historically unhealthy relationship with food, booze and drugs.

    And I reckon Scottish rugby's on the cusp of another decade of good, consistent results.

    There's a crop of younger, exciting, spritely and optimistic lads coming through; Horne, Dunbar, Bennett to name a few. They appear to have a healthy 'can do' attitude and they're not feart which should be encouraged. If we expect great things, they'll deliver. If we don't, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy (I'm sure one or two of the players read these things. I know Mossy did/does).

    Anyway, have a generous nip of a good single malt (mine's an Ardbeg), forget your day and keep your fingers crossed for Sunday.

    Slange ava!

  • Comment number 16.

    Oh, and with regards to another pro-team in Scotland, I agree wholeheartedly. I'm a definite proponent. Currently, without injury or international call up to create space, the younger and less experienced guys don't get a shot, can't develop and sit on the Edinburgh and Glasgow benches (if they're lucky). The alternative's playing abroad but the player release and off-the-radar problems emerge there. I vote north east to even up the demographics a bit.

    As for NDL and Lamont, I see what you're saying but I still think NDL's had more good than bad, though the bad seems for more memorable. Lamont's predictable but even at that, most folk can't stop him so he's an asset.

    I'd have liked to have seen Max starting too but he'll inject pace when he comes on; engage afterburners... warp speed!

  • Comment number 17.

    And we think our southern neighbours are over confident and over hyped! Where does this optimism come from? There is absolutely no evidence wahtsoever that we'll even come close to beating NZ. Inadequately skilled pro players playing for unsuccessful pro teams that feed the worst national side in the 6N. NDL, Ruaridh Jackson, Geoff Cross, Max Evans, Blair, Chunk, Ford, Hamilton, Lamont.... none of them are good enough to win at this level. This is more like Rangers trying to beat Barcelona, not Celtic. The only time I've seen Scotland win in recent times is in horrendous weather conditions. Please let's get real. And let's pray for rain.

  • Comment number 18.

    Great blog Dave. ...I mean John! Sorry Dave, i know you so i get away with that!

    I have always been massively optimistic but after years of getting bashed and kicked with Scotland beatings im becoming more cynical. I berate the fact the referees always go with the bigger teams, that Ross Ford cant seem to find his man, that the scrum always lets us down. But then the game approaches and i cant help get swept away with it! The excitement before kick off, the anticipation that anything could happen. Negativity helps nobody. Just look at how Dave's positive vibes are swaying NewHolland7030! It works! Great post by the way. It inspired me to chip in.

    The positivity works, if fans at the stadium had that, in bad times and good watching Scotland it would transmit to the team! Lets do it on Sunday. New Zealand CAN be beaten.

    I'll be there. I always am. Because if there's one moment in that match, one spark of brilliance from Visser or Hogg that gets me off my seat and for a moment has me thinking the impossible is possible it will be worth it. That feeling is what gets me going back. I love New Zealand but it must be hard being an All Blacks fan. You are expected to win all the time.

    Where's the fun in that!

  • Comment number 19.

    Why on earth do we allow the haka before matches?
    With so much emphasis placed on sports psychology and mental preparation before games,why do we hand a massive psychological advantage to the opposition?
    If they want to do this in NZ then let them but why here? It's not that entertaining. Facial contortions and threatening hand movements can be seen in any Scottish city on a Saturday. It's our home game, we should be in charge!

  • Comment number 20.

    Celtic v Barcelona, anyone? Let's hope there's still enough of The Magic left floating around to let Scottish lightning strike twice.

    The Haka? It's a quintessential aspect of rugby culture and I both love and respect it. At the same time if I was on the pitch and facing it, I'd be hell bent on throwing it back in their faces for the full 80 minutes.

    Grow a really big pair, take no prisoners and put 105 years of garbage to bed. Enough said.

  • Comment number 21.

    @NewHolland7030 The battle of Rorkes Drift was a victory for 140 British soldiers against 4000 Zulu warriors, if you're likening tomorrow's result to an astonishing victory against overwhelming odds then I'll agree with you!

  • Comment number 22.

    We must have belief otherwise we are never going to beat teams like New Zealand, c'mon Scotland let's get behind our nation.

  • Comment number 23.

    Ho hum. Maybe next time.

    I'll try extra, extra hard to see the next game in the stadium as Jonathan Davies' tv commentary is simply dreadful. The only times I got really animated were the Scottish tries and yelling at the tv hoping somehow that JD would hear me and put a sock in it.

    Please, please, please to the Beeb powers that be: don't let JD anywhere near another Scottish game. Ever.

  • Comment number 24.

    Defeat again. No great surprise.

    There is at least a glimmer of hope in the young and new such as Grant, Laidlaw, Gray, Denton, Visser and Hogg. But they must keep improving.

    Unfortunately many of the rest are sub-international standard.

    NDL must go. How many chances can he be allowed to have in a Scotland jersey? Dropped the ball in a key attacking position AGAIN. Offensively he offers nada which just aint good enough.

    Max Evans must go. How many times does he lose the ball in contact? As often as not. Just not got the skills and hands back possession to the opposition.

    Ross Ford must go. Where to start? So obvious in everything he does. Predictable beyond belief. As for his throwing in.....

    As usual the team gave their all in effort but as usual they were found wanting in skill and ability.

    Anybody got any solutions? Until we do can we lay off the "Scotland's best chance of beating the All Blacks" chat as its embarrassing.

    On the plus side it was a joy to watch the ABs play rugby. Did look as if they eased off in the second half though which was a pity. Sterner tests for them to come.

    A couple of asides:
    Wish we would stop booing kicks at goal. Its pathetic.
    Is there nothing else for our supporters to sing than Flower of Scotland?
    Why do we need loud music during every stoppage or break? Again pathetic. We can't create our own atmosphere so lets play some dance anthems? Is that the policy?


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