Scots target history against All Blacks
November 9, 2012
Scotland coach Andy Robinson and new skipper Kelly Brown will be hoping to build on their successful summer tour © PA Photos
Scotland will look to build on their headline-grabbing summer tour by making history against New Zealand at Murrayfield on Sunday.
Andy Robinson's side stunned Australia back in June and followed it up with victories over Fiji and Samoa but they face a step up in class against the reigning world champions who they have never beaten in 28 attempts.
An historic first win against the All Blacks would significantly boost their hopes of improving their IRB ranking and therefore their seeding for next month's Rugby World Cup pool draw. The Scots currently sit 9th in the ranking and should they not improve their ranking in the coming weeks, with clashes against South Africa and Tonga also scheduled, they face being drawn alongside two of the eight sides above them for the 2015 showpiece. That was the case for the 2011 tournament and they failed to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. An upset of the All Blacks or the Springboks would see them climb into the top eight and secure a less daunting World Cup draw.
However, they face an ever-impressive All Blacks side fresh from capturing the Rugby Championship crown to add to their World Cup triumph. And while Australia may have brought an end to their awe-inspiring winning run with a draw in Brisbane last month, the tourists still have plenty of momentum heading into their end of year tour.
Scotland - Player to Watch: Tim Visser wasted little time in making an impression on his ascent to the Test match stage during the summer with two tries in two games - but what can he do on home turf and his home ground with Edinburgh?
Scotland - Team News: Scotland have made five changes to the side that beat Samoa in June. Centre Joe Ansbro and scrum-half Chris Cusiter are both out injured, No.8 Richie Vernon did not make the initial squad and tight-head prop Euan Murray is not available as the All Blacks clash falls on a Sunday and Al Kellock is dropped to the bench. Jim Hamilton - who missed the summer tour due to suspension - comes in for Kellock while Kelly Brown, the new captain, starts at No.8. Geoff Cross is a like-for-like replacement for Murray in the front-row while Mike Blair starts at scrum-half in place of Cusiter. And in the centres, Nick de Luca replaces the injured Ansbro.
New Zealand - Player to Watch: Scrum-half Piri Weepu has heeded calls from All Blacks management to shed a few kgs and improve his fitness and has been rewarded with a starting berth. Will he make the most of the opportunity?
New Zealand - Team News: Highlanders duo Ben Smith and Tamati Ellison will form a new-look midfield combination in the most eye-catching of the changes to the side that drew with the Wallabies last time out. Piri Weepu gets the nod at scrum-half with Aaron Smith making way while Julian Savea is named on the left wing in the place of Hosea Gear. Elsewhere, Adam Thomson will pack down at blindside and Victor Vito at No.8 with Liam Messam and Kieran Read rested. Wyatt Crockett, Andrew Hore and Owen Franks come into the front row with Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina making way. The final change to the starting line-up sees Luke Romano replace Brodie Retallick. Another highlight is the inclusion of the two new caps, 25-year-old hooker Dane Coles and 22-year-old halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow in the replacements.
Key Battle: Scotland's Ross Rennie caught the eye during this year's Six Nations and was also a key figure during his side's unbeaten summer tour - but he faces the master of openside play on Saturday in the form of the All Blacks' talismanic skipper Richie McCaw - how will he measure up?
Trivia: Scotland's latest clash with the All Blacks is a sell-out. It's the first time a match held at Murrayfield in the autumn international window has reached capacity with more than 67,000 fans set to pack the stadium.
Stats: New Zealand have not lost an end of year international since a 31-28 defeat to England at Twickenham in 2002.
"Kelly Brown is an inspirational person. He has an aura, confidence and belief about him and a firm understanding of the game."
"At home they are a very proud nation. They will play tenaciously and look to slow our ball down. They'll look to play a bit more attacking rugby with Scotty Johnson around. Right across the pack they will attack us. It will be a good challenge."
Prediction: New Zealand have built up an impressive head of steam in the last 12 months and not even a bullish Scotland side will knock them out of their stride - the hosts should expect a familiar result at the hands of the All Blacks.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September