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Five Scottish players to watch on Saturday

By Steph Brawn
Scotland celebrate against Wales

After 30 winless games stretching back to 1905, Scotland find themselves once again hoping to defeat the world champion All Blacks as they welcome them to Edinburgh on Saturday evening.

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Most fans wouldn’t display any glimpse of hope in this situation, but not the Murrayfield faithful.

Despite all the stats, the slightly inexperienced starting line-up and the confidence the All Blacks carry with them, players and fans will all hold a renewed sense of belief that this time it can happen.

In recent times Scotland have opened up their style of play, exhibiting an exciting brand of rugby. In that time they have been able to see off Ireland and Wales in this year’s Six Nations as well as a win over Australia in Sydney in June leaving many fans in little doubt a victory is a possible.

Scotland faced Samoa last Saturday with their new fast paced game-plan on display; they could not stop scoring tries. However nor could they stop letting them in at the other end, the aftermath of their 44-32 victory over the tier two side having a slightly sour edge to it.

If Gregor Townsend’s men are to have any chance of recording a famous win over Steve Hansen’s side this Saturday than they must up their defence standards quite a bit.

But not all games are won and lost on defence, so here are five key players I believe will need to be at their best to give Townsend’s side a fighting chance.

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Stuart McInally
Named man of the match against Samoa, the Edinburgh hooker can have a rightful smile on his face. However, he mustn’t let that go to his head as Scotland will need the accuracy and strength he showed in the line-outs and mauls to overcome New Zealand’s set piece. His performance last Saturday was without a doubt his best in his 10 appearances so far and Townsend will be hoping he can turn that great display into a run of form.

Tommy Seymour
The Glasgow winger hardly saw the ball against Samoa, with his only notable contribution being a grubber-kick to set up Stuart Hogg’s opening try. Scotland will need to use Seymour’s pace and skill under the high ball to add creativity to their attack and break down the All Blacks’ defence. Despite not playing against the world champions on the British and Irish Lions tour, Seymour was the top try scorer touching down against the Highlanders and the Hurricanes. The experience of playing Kiwi sides will no doubt come in handy when he has the ball on Saturday, providing he manages to get himself into the game early on.

Stuart Hogg
Against New Zealand you need an angry, hungry and passionate patriot in your arsenal and Scotland have that in spades with Hogg when he turns up. Whenever he gets ball in hand, you can guarantee he will bring spark to the game. He is the second most experienced player in the starting line-up behind skipper John Barclay and at just 25 has scored 17 tries for Scotland. If Hogg doesn’t produce a confident display, it could be a long day for the home side.

Huw Jones
Despite being born in Edinburgh, Jones has spent his whole career in South Africa after a gap year in the country ignited his love of the game. When he started for Scotland for the first time against Australia last autumn, hardly anyone knew who he was, but after scoring five tries in nine appearances, he’s regarded as a secret weapon in the side. He may not have any experience playing the All Blacks, but he knows the Southern Hemisphere way and has a fearlessness about him when he puts on the Scotland jersey. Townsend will be looking to him to provide a spark with his centre partner Alex Dunbar.

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Finn Russell
Scotland will need tries but they will also need every kick they can get, so the fiery fly-half will need to bring pinpoint accuracy to his kicking game which could be the difference between winning and losing. His spontaneity in attack can be beautiful and a catastrophe, but Scotland will be hoping he can add a bit of magic on Saturday which I’m sure fans will admit would not go amiss against a side proving to be their Everest.

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Shaylen 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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J
Jon 11 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Ioane is going to be more than good enough to lock up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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