Scots lost for words
November 12, 2010
Can Scotland skipper Mike Blair and head coach Andy Robinson claim the All Blacks' scalp this weekend? © Getty Images
The Scottish management and team captain have publicly revealed that they have no notion of what to say to their team prior to Saturday's mighty clash with the New Zealand All Blacks in Edinburgh.
With pundits, bookies and even loyal local fans giving the home side no hope on Saturday, Scotland's leaders are struggling to know exactly how to prepare. Scrum-half and captain Mike Blair has admitted he is bereft of ideas of what he can possibly say to realistically motivate his men before they kick off their 2010 Autumn campaign.
The two sides first met in 1905 and the Scots have been chasing their first win ever since. To date the fixture has produced 27 victories for New Zealand and two draws. The two tied matches occurred in 1964 and 1983 and a possible faint glimmer of hope is that both were on Scottish soil.
"I can hardly come out with something as crass as 'We are going to win this match, boys', can I?" said the Edinburgh No.9 at a press conference on Thursday. "I mean, let's be realistic, the lads aren't really gonna believe that are they? It doesn't matter how loud and fierce I shout it they aren't going to fall for it.
"At the same time I can hardly say: 'Lads, if we try really, really hard and go for it 110% and if we get a few lucky bounces and if the wind is in our favour and if New Zealand get a few yellow, even red cards, and if we all play the game of our lives and the ref favours us and New Zealand haven't had any sleep the night before and every single Kiwi player gets food poisoning then….then…then we could possibly, possibly trouble them for about 25 minutes!' That kind of speech doesn't sound like the right thing to do either.''
Blair even went so far as to ask for ideas and tips from the assembled press corps: "Anyone got any ideas? Seriously, I'll take anything."
Former England coach Andy Robinson, who has been helping Scottish rugby get its mojo back since 2009, also admitted he is stumped for ideas. "It's keeping me up night and day to be honest. What can I say? We talk a lot about honesty in the camp and doing the right thing. So can I really prepare this team while giving off the impression I believe we can win this?"
Making matters worse, the Scottish rugby public have not yet snapped up all the available tickets. As of press time, thousands of seats remain empty for the Murrayfield clash and the resulting lack of atmosphere is hardly likely to inspire the men of Scotland onwards to glory.
"You kind of get the feeling people don't want to see us fall again," said Blair. "I have loads of texts and emails of support from friends and families, but, at the same time, everyone is making excuses about why they can't actually come on Saturday.
"Quite a few people I know are cleaning the oven, mowing the lawn or washing their hair this weekend. I'm hoping it's true and it's just a coincidence everyone seems to be doing things at exactly quarter past five on Saturday, the very same time as we kick off. But then again, I'm not so sure."
Blair has revealed that he has tried to turn to Robinson for assistance, but the former Engand flanker has, despite his best efforts, been unable to help him in his daunting task. "I asked Andy what he thinks I should say to the lads in the dressing room this weekend or if he had any motivation ideas. He sort of shuffled around for a bit, cast his eyes to the floor and mumbled something about getting back to me later.
"Then, suddenly, after training he comes up to me with the Disney Mighty Ducks DVD Trilogy and says that it may come in handy for some inspiration. He says that perhaps I could get the lads together to watch it Friday evening or at the very least throw up a few Emilio Estevez posters around the dressing rooms. I'm not so sure about that but if I'm honest I don't have any better ideas at present.
"I did put up some motivational posters to try to get the lads going. You know, the ones you often see in top corporate offices with pictures of mountain peaks, oceans and clouds and surrounded by a black border with quotes about believing and stuff. But I'm not so sure they would go down too well with tight-head props."
Blair was confident, however, that the Australians in his squad would not be intimidated by the All Blacks' fearsome aura.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Rugby Union have denied reports that they intend to select the entire country, including women and children, to face New Zealand this Saturday. It turns out the 'When Scotland Play We All Play' image circulating via the internet and television commercials is just a marketing campaign and not an official selection policy.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The East Terrace (www.theeastterrace.com) offers an offside view of life in the rugby world
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra