All Black Cloud Over Scotland Once More
Scotland v New Zealand
Scotland take on the All Blacks at 5:30 on Saturday in the hope of at least drawing with the World champions…
A solitary victory over Italy was the only bright spot of another dismal Scottish Six Nations campaign earlier this year, but under new coach Vern Cotter, Scotland have started to show signs of fulfilling their promise. They returned from a potentially tricky summer tour with three wins from four games and began their autumn internationals with an encouraging 41-31 victory over Argentina.
Their twenty-two game unbeaten run came to an end in Johannesburg last month, but otherwise, it has been another year of world domination by the All Blacks. They whitewashed England 3-0 in the summer, before winning their third Rugby Championship with a game to spare and began their northern hemisphere tour with a fifth consecutive victory over England last weekend.
It had been hinted before the game against Argentina that the Scottish captaincy would be moved around the team this autumn, but Greig Laidlaw appears to have done enough to retain the role after his man of the match performance last weekend. Scotland’s only injury doubt is at scrum half, where Sam Hidalgo-Clyne has been called up as cover for Henry Pyrgos, who sustained concussion on Saturday.
The big news for New Zealand is that the world record holder for Test points, Dan Carter, could return to the side for his first serious action since playing against England at Twickenham last November. Lock Luke Romano could replace Brodie Retallick, who is out with an injured shoulder and coach Steve Hansen may opt to pair Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa at centre to give Sonny Bill Williams a break.
The size of the task facing Scotland is illustrated by the head-to-head record.
The Scots have been trying to beat New Zealand since 1905 but have not succeeded in 29 attempts.
They have managed a couple of draws, but the last of those was in 1983.
Last time they met, two years ago at Murrayfield, the home side managed to score three tries, but unfortunately New Zealand managed twice as many, leading 34-15 at half-time and going on to wrap up a comfortable 51-22 victory.
That defeat was one of the smaller ones that Scotland have had to swallow. Five times this century they’ve conceded 30 point losses to the All Blacks and their average margin of defeat over that period is 34.25.
Scotland have been a frustrating side to watch in recent months but in a relatively short time working under Vern Cotter, they have shown considerable improvement.
Against Argentina, they were feisty, combative and dynamic and if they can carry that form into Saturday’s game, they can give a good account of themselves. A Scottish victory lies on the outer reaches of probability, but they can give the All Blacks something to think about and keep the margin of defeat respectable. Back Scotland +25 at 10/11 in the Match Handicap market.