Vernon Versus The All Blacks

The life of a professional rugby player is harder than they would have you believe. Sure, they are doing what they love – and there are hours of Xbox to play – but sometimes it gets a wee bit gritty. At least that’s according to Scotland’s starting number 8, Richie Vernon.

“There’s been a tough build up to Saturday’s game. Andy [Robinson] likes the start of the week to be hard…and the end of the week gets a little bit harder!”

The Scotland boys aren’t taking training lightly. Understandable considering they are facing the number one team in the world, the obstinate All Blacks. Training has been tough for Scotland, but it has to be if they are to steel themselves for the game ahead. “We have been bashing each other, but it’s for a purpose. We know we face a huge challenge at the breakdown, but we also want to play our game.”

Such words have resonance of Robinson’s ethos since taking charge. Since he has been in place Scotland have looked to marry offloads and wide passes with a solid set-piece and this sort of game plan compliments the rangy back-rower. If Scotland can unleash an athlete like Vernon with a sly offload, or by having numbers up, then New Zealand could be in for a surprise. “There is no secret tactic to beating the All Blacks,” Richie states. “We just have to front up and play our game. If we can look after the ball for enough phases, spaces will open up.”

Space is the key, on Saturday. The backline Scotland has picked is full of running. If the likes of the Lamont brothers and Southwell can actually give the pass at the right time, then things could get interesting. New Zealand are still huge favourites but the fact that they have very little hands-on experience of playing Scotland, and that we are greatly improved over the last few seasons, surely helps our cause. The opposition is by no means indomitable. Vernon agrees. “The All Blacks have an aura about them, and we have never beaten them, but our confidence is sky high. We have to play well but we don’t fear them: we can take on their set-piece,as England showed, and we have a huge lineout. I’m optimistic we can play our way and we can perform our roles.”

Certainly more serious than a night in with ‘Call of Duty’.

Away from the mammoth task ahead, though, things aren’t all solemn. “The lads have been letting us new starters [Richies’ Vernon and Gray] get on with it. However, on Friday I have to sing in front of all the boys. I can’t decide on which 80s classic to go for.

Hopefully Richie Gray chokes when he sings. That would make up for all the pelters he’s been giving me. All season he’s said there is only one Richie, and every time I open a paper this week it’s a huge picture of him and a tiny insert of myself.”

This is undoubtedly a huge prospect for the 23-year-old, starting for the first time. “This will be my biggest test. Surprisingly, I’m less nervous now I’m starting. I know my role from the start and training has gone well. No doubt I’ll feel differently on Saturday morning!”

Unsung he perhaps is; a great singer he most likely isn’t; nervous he definitely will be. Yet however this one talented athlete feels on Saturday hopefully we will all be singing, come Sunday.

Scotland vs New Zealand kicks off at 17:15
Coverage on BBC One Scotland

All Blacks team to face Scotland;

1. Tony Woodcock
2. Keven Mealamu / Hikawera Elliot (uncapped)*
3. Owen Franks
4. Brad Thorn
5. Samuel Whitelock
6. Liam Messam
7. Richie McCaw – captain
8. Kieran Read
9. Jimmy Cowan
10. Daniel Carter
11. Hosea Gear
12. Sonny Bill Williams
13. Conrad Smith
14. Isaia Toeava
15. Mils Muliaina

Reserves:
16. Andrew Hore
17. John Afoa
18. Anthony Boric
19. Daniel Braid
20. Andy Ellis
21. Stephen Donald
22. Ma’a Nonu

*Awaiting Mealamu’s appeal decision on Friday

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One comment on “Vernon Versus The All Blacks

  1. Rory on

    Richie will only step up to true test greatness when he realises that PS3 is the way forward. Still, here’s hoping he gets more time playing rugby than Call of Duty: Black Ops this month. Reckon that’ll spike our traffic?

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