'The game flashed before our eyes': All Blacks reflect on Scotland history
It’s been five years since Scotland came oh so close to grabbing a first-ever win over the All Blacks.
On that cool evening in Edinburgh, the home side fell five points short but a Stuart Hogg breakout in the dying seconds of the game almost earned Scotland a surprise victory – only for Beauden Barrett to shut down the attack with some superb defending down the right-hand flank.
Half a decade on, and it’s a match well remembered by the man who saved New Zealand’s bacon.
“It was, I think, 3-all at halftime. A real close encounter and came right down to the wire at the end of that game,” Barrett said of the affair. “So I’d expect something similar this week too.
“I know how quick (Hogg) is and thankfully I had the sideline to work with and the game flashed before our eyes and we were quite lucky to get away with it.
“So that just shows how lethal Scotland can be as a team. They’ve got plenty of attacking weapons and they like to use the ball so our defence has to be on this week.”
While Caleb Clarke noted earlier in the week that the previous Scotland-NZ encounter has been discussed by the team, head coach Ian Foster – who was an assistant coach in 2017 – played down the relevance of the match.
“We haven’t spent a lot of time on that, to be honest,” Foster said on Thursday. “I think Stormy [Scott MacLeod] as a defence coach picked up a couple of things that he wanted to freak us out with, so that was good.
“What it did reflect is that it’s been a long time between drinks playing Scotland and when you haven’t played an opponent for a long period, you’ve have got to make sure you do your work in getting to know who you’re playing against. So it’s been more a matter of just making sure we are clear about the threats that they have.”
Scotland have famously never tasted defeat against the Kiwis in over 100 years of history between the two sides, with the All Blacks claiming 29 wins over that period. In 1964 and 1983, however, the nations did fight their way to two draws.
While Scotland will naturally be out to overturn history on Sunday, the unbeaten record means little to the All Blacks in the here and now – at least according to Foster.
“We get no comfort from records like that,” he said, “but it’s a fact and doesn’t change the fact it’s a Test match coming up and every Test match you play nowadays has something attached to it.
“So expectations are always high for us but we’re also promised that this is a Scottish team that’s going through a bit of confidence at the moment.
“Rugged would be one word [to describe Scotland]”, Foster said. “They’re very robust at the breakdown. They play with quite a bit of adventure to their game and so they challenge you in some different areas with some different types of plays that some other teams challenge up here.
“I think in the last couple of years they’ve shown they can really get up and play very well in big games. And I guess they’re searching for consistency, as well, as a team. But the upside is that their top game’s at a pretty high level.”
Sunday’s match is set to kick of at 2:15pm GMT.
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