Respect from All Blacks has to be hard-earned

Vern Cotter is preparing his side to face his native New Zealand. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Vern Cotter is preparing his side to face his native New Zealand. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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New Zealand will field a reserve side at BT Murrayfield on Saturday with just two players who started against England appearing in Saturday’s XV.

The Scots, though, deserve nothing else after conceding 13 tries in their last two meetings with the World Champions. The peerless Richie McCaw, in his autobiography, was typically blunt about the 2010 game: “It is only Scotland who, on the evidence of that outing, don’t have a hell of a lot of the old Scots rip-shit-and-bust about them.”

Naturally enough, Scotland head coach Vern Cotter insisted that whatever team the All Blacks field will pose plenty of problems for the home side. “Less experience does not mean lesser players” was just one warning shot he fired. The Kiwi was at his laconic best yesterday when sizing up opposition whom he probably understands better than his own team.

“We spent a couple of hours looking at the All Blacks and came away scratching our heads with most things,” he offered by way of assessment.

“One thing that was clear was that they improve as the game goes on. They are happy to weather the storm at the start then accelerate. I notice they have a very strong bench and I would imagine they will try to tire us out and then accelerate in the last 20 minutes.

“We spent a long time looking at them and could not find a clear and evident way to disrupt them. We have not really focused on what they are doing. That is their business. We all know in situations like this, when players have been waiting a long time and dreaming of putting on the All Blacks jersey, when they do, they draw another leg as they say. We are anticipating a very enthusiastic and dangerous team this weekend.

“England came up with a win two years ago and haven’t been able to do it since. If you think you know what the All Blacks are about it does not last very long. They constantly evolve and develop. They set high standards and that is all we need to know and we need to be at the top of our game.

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“England have not yet found a way to beat the All Blacks since. If you look at the All Blacks as an example, they tore England apart in the last 20 minutes by changing the way they played. They are capable of stringing passes together and offloads but if they have to knuckle down and take you down the middle, they will. You need to be able to play all forms of rugby.”

The most Cotter would concede is that New Zealand’s relative inexperience in the tight five, where four forwards share 17 caps, “may give Scotland a point of entry” into the game if the set piece holds up.

The Kiwi was quizzed by visiting journalists from New Zealand about living in and around the Scottish capital and Cotter confirmed that his family had settled in well, claiming his kids already sported Scottish accents and, whatever the truth of that, one of them is currently turning out for North Berwick juniors. What can’t be disputed is the long history of links between the two nations.

“There are more New Zealanders [in Scotland] than there are New Zealanders in Australia I think,” Cotter said. “There are New Zealanders everywhere. There are certainly parallels between the two countries, especially the South Island of New Zealand. I understand New Zealanders more after living in Scotland because there is such a huge Scottish influence on the culture that we’ve got back home. It’s quite amazing.”

Cotter couldn’t recall whether he had ever faced All Blacks coach Steve Hansen in his playing days but there is no doubt that he understands better than most what his team face. Will it be, Cotter was asked, an emotional match for him?

“Its a question that has arisen a couple of times,” he responds. “I have been coaching for a few years professionally. It’s a team that you look at and you analyse to win.

“If I want to sit back…but I don’t have time to sit back and look at philosophies. We’re looking at a really tough team and our players are preparing their best to confront them, to compete with them, to put them under pressure and to score points and that is all we are focusing on.

“I think if you get caught up in the emotion, you are in all sorts of trouble. We know that they are very good and, as I say, our whole week scratching our heads and looking at them, they certainly understand their business, we’ve got to understand ours a lot better so we’ve just focused on ourselves.”

The Kiwi knows that no one in black wants to be tagged as the team that was the first to lose to Scotland at any level of the game. At the same time, he is obviously urging his own players to seize the moment.

“After Saturday’s game, we will probably have a better understanding of where we are at, so yeah, the idea is to have a go, have a go,” he repeats for emphasis. “The players, like I said, have big hearts, they really want to give their best, they don’t want to sit back.

“The only advice we give to players is that you focus on the instant,” Cotter insisted. “The past, there is no point wasting energy on and nor is the future. If you concentrate fully on the present and try to execute and play, and try to generate energy then you may give yourself a chance.”

So, has the Kiwi coach received any goodwill messages from back home?

“No. None at all!”

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

Scotland

15 S Hogg

14 S Maitland

13 M Bennett

12 A Dunbar

11 T Seymour

10 F Russell

9 G Laidlaw (capt)

1 A Dickinson

2 R Ford

3 E Murray

4 R Gray

5 J Gray

6 R Harley

7 B Cowan

8 A Ashe

Subs

16 F Brown

17 G Reid

18 G Cross

19 T Swinson

20 J Beattie

21 C Cusiter

22 D Weir

23 S Lamont

New Zealand

15 B Smith

14 C Slade

13 M Fekitoa

12 R Crotty

11 C Piutau

10 D Carter

9 TJ Perenara

1 J Moody

2 J Parsons

3 C Faumuina

4 J Thrush

5 D Bird

6 R McCaw (capt)

7 S Cane

8 V Vito

Subs

16 D Cole

17 W Crockett

18 B Franks

19 L Romano

20 L Messam

21 A Pulu

22 S B Williams

23 J Savea

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