Sunday, 11 November 2012

Scotland v New Zealand - Preview

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Based on evidence from Celtic Park, where Barcelona's mighty footballers were toppled on Wednesday night, Murrayfield might lift off from planet earth should Scotland's national rugby team achieve another almost unthinkable feat: registering their first-ever win over New Zealand.

Debate could rage forever about which is tougher, but there's no question that Scotland are huge outsiders to stop the All Black juggernaut. The world champions were only recently a last-gasp missed Dan Carter drop-goal away from equalling the world record of 17 straight Test wins by a top-tier nation, but drew 18-18 in Australia.

The supremely gifted current generation - fresh and evolving under Steve Hansen, as exhibited by the raft of changes he has made for Murrayfield - are still considered equals, at the very least, to their record-breaking predecessors of 1965-1969. And like Barcelona's football team of this era, they are considered one of the greatest sports teams of all time. They transcend rugby.

But Andy Robinson dare not dwell on all this as he prepares his players. His squad are also evolving well and they are significantly buoyed by three fine wins on their southern hemisphere tour over summer. Beating Australia for the first time since 1982 has given Scotland a rare momentum, and Kelly Brown will be determined to grow their team spirit as he becomes captain while winning his 50th cap.

If there is a chink of light on the chalkboard, Robinson could point out that in drawing against Australia the All Blacks failed to score a try for the first time since August 2004 - a run of 105 fixtures. It can also be argued that New Zealand are not selecting the strongest XV. But the All Blacks still have their Messi and Xavi - Richie McCaw and Dan Carter - from the off, and are keen to point out that the starting team boasts 556 Test caps (backed up by 267 on the bench).

So Scotland may just concentrate on an impressive all-round display that builds on their summer success, rather than fretting solely about the scoreboard. After that Six Nations whitewash, the time for worrying solely about the result will come when spring arrives.

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