At 5.15 on Saturday a few boys may get the shock of their lives. According to Allblacks.com the grumpy headmaster Graham Henry respects Scotland enough not to tinker…too much.
Al is right, the All Blacks aren’t Supermen. So looking at our team selection and the way NZ coasted past England in 2nd gear, what do we expect?
Well, if Henry picks a similar side then we can take heart from the fact that the scrum wasn’t looking world class. Despite playing very little rugby, Murray should be able to hold on, particularly as Mealamu is out following his citing. In this instance Ross Ford will, thankfully, be able to rely on his Test match experience, rather than his form, against debutant Hika Elliot. Chunk will do what Chunk does.
If we expect an even contest in the line-out, then set-piece won’t be too harem-scarem. In the loose, however, the All Black forwards come into play. The younger guys should retain their places, so expect to see Whitelock and Franks running around. The former is an athletic second-row (with the exception of Troy Flavell, aren’t they all?!) and the latter is a savage at the breakdown. It was quite pleasing seeing him brutally smash Ben Foden last Saturday, but watch him smash into rucks from miles away this Saturday.
Whilst we’re on the subject of breakdowns, it is time to point out the flaw from Sky’s coverage of the ABs last week. Dan Carter wasn’t the Man of the Match…Kieran Read was. If he starts, then as well as shoeing McCaw away from the wrong side of the ruck, the Scottish back-row of Brown, Barclay and Vernon are going to have to find some way of slowing Read down. If he doesn’t do the dirty work, the rest of the NZ breakaways cough up penalties.
Where optimism lies, however, is in our defence. If we chase kicks well then hopefully Muliaina, or whoever starts at 15, won’t be able to draw men before feeding Toeava or Gear through the gap. Also the ABs will expect kicking…but our 11,12,13 and 14 aren’t hugely fond of kicking…or passing, really. Maybe if the mood takes we can spring a surprise. That would be lovely, wouldn’t it?!
The Kiwi rugby forums all tell of respect but they all say the same thing; Scotland kick out of desperation and have no cutting edge. The 20pt win predictions they are offering are based on assumptions that counter-attack will shred Scotland. If we can claim turnovers and unleash the Lamont brothers of years ago, maybe we can add some tries to those kicks.
p.s. Message for Max Evans; don’t let Sonny Bill offload if he starts. Ta.
UPDATE: NZ Team: Muliaina, Toeava, Smith, Williams, Gear, Carter, Cowan, Woodcock, Mealamu / Elliot, Franks, Thorn, Whitelock, Messam, McCaw, Read