WHEN Scottish Rugby issued its customary invitation to fans to voice their support for the team on Twitter, it got more than it bargained for yesterday – with Scotland receiving a good luck message from today’s opponents New Zealand. Perhaps the All Blacks feel Vern Cotter’s team will need it.
“Tweet us your good luck messages for the team and you could see yours on the BT Murrayfield big screens tomorrow,” the governing body tweeted, adding the hashtags #backing blue and #AsOne.
The invitation was too much to resist for whoever runs the official All Blacks Twitter account. “Good luck Scotland team”, he or she tweeted, omitting those two hashtags and inserting instead #SCOvNZL.
Although New Zealand are overwhelming favourites, Rob Harley believes Scotland will be able to match any team in the world provided they can keep up the improvement they showed last week.
The five tries scored in the 41-31 win over Argentina showed that Scotland are a more potent attacking threat than they have been for years, but the Glasgow flanker knows that, against New Zealand this evening, he and his team-mates will have to at least maintain that threat while tightening up in other areas of the match.
He said: “We’re setting out our stall that we have to raise our game and give them challenges.
“We’re trying to raise our standards from where we were last week, to improve on things we did well and looking at things we can improve. If we get that improvement we can take our game to the next level and challenge any team.
“It’s more about focusing on ourselves and imposing our game rather than watching what they’re going to do. We have to play our game and be on the front foot.”
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
While today’s game at BT Murrayfield will be Harley’s first encounter with the All Blacks, lock Richie Gray has played the world champions twice before, in 2010 and 2012. The visitors racked up 100 points over the two games to record their 26th and 27th victories in the 29-match series between the nations to date, with the other two having been drawn.
The fact that no Scotland team has ever beaten the All Blacks is one that has appeared to weigh heavily on the minds of some players in recent years.
Gray insisted that he and his team-mates genuinely believed they could win both of their last two games against New Zealand but accepted that there were times when they had been in awe of their opponents.
“Maybe in the past we have given the New Zealand team too much respect,” said Gray. “We talked this week about how we want to get in their faces and disrupt things as best we can. It’s a tough thing. You go up against them and they have quality players across the board. Maybe you sit off a bit, give them too much time and let them play.
“That’s certainly not what we want to do this weekend. We want to get in their faces, make things difficult and rattle them a bit.
“When we talk about imposing themselves and getting in their faces, we mean it from an attacking point of view as well.
“We’re not going to go into our shells. We want to stick to our attacking philosophy, one we have spoken about a lot over the past few weeks. We want to impose that on New Zealand.
“They [the last two games] have been pretty tough outings. This weekend we’re looking to be better and get something out of the game,” added Gray.
“We need to be at the top of our game and really get in their faces. If we let the New Zealand team play, it will be a pretty tough day at the office. We want to impose ourselves as well and attack. We can’t gift them ball and we have to be accurate.”
The optimism shown by both Scotland forwards appears to be shared by at least a section of the home support, for whom the manner of last week’s win against the Pumas was enough to suggest that the home team has a good chance of making history today.
“Hopefully they could see there’s a bit of confidence, a bit of belief, back in Scottish rugby,” Gray added.
“We’d like to see that grow and continue. So, hopefully, we can perform to that level this weekend.”
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS