All Blacks are ready to squeeze Scotland

LIAM NAPIER IN EDINBURGH
Last updated 05:00 11/11/2012
Dan Carter
DAVID GIBSON/FOTOSPORT
DAN CARTER: "After a performance like that [against Australia in Brisbane] you want to play the following week and make amends."

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It's big. It's ugly. And it needs to be squeezed.

The All Blacks' error-strewn performance in Brisbane resembles a white-headed pimple begging to be popped. Edinburgh is on stand-by for the eruption.

The draw against the Wallabies has been the main motivation for the All Blacks this past week. By the time they run on to the hallowed Murrayfield turf tomorrow morning (NZ time) it will have been 22 days since the pimple first surfaced.

Wearing that sore around town is not something this side is used to - it stands out like pale pins and stubbies in the chilly Scottish capital. And the tourists have made no effort to cover up. They've talked openly about their frustrations and the desire for atonement.

Even the gruff All Blacks' front-rowers are accustomed to being blemish-free.

It's been a long wait for the treatment cream to arrive, but tension is expected to be finally relieved against the Scots.

The worst performance of the season should be rectified.

"After a performance like that you want to play the following week and make amends," All Blacks vice-captain Dan Carter said. "We've had to wait a couple of weeks before this game."

Steve Hansen's men have pored over more footage of their bumbles in Brisbane than they have done analysis on Scotland.

Said Carter: "This game is more about us. We haven't looked at Scotland all that much this week. We are wanting to focus on our performance. When you look at it like that it takes the opposition out of the equation."

That serves to highlight the All Blacks' expectations and insular priorities.

If they play to their ability it will be a familiar cake-walk. In essence, the only danger is themselves.

Thirty-minutes of kick-off reception practice at one training session last week gives an insight into their mindset.

That is not arrogance - merely a reality. The All Blacks shouldn't have to downplay their dominance. They've earned the mantle as the world's best side.

They did, after all, score seven tries to one on the last visit here.

Scotland have never beaten the All Blacks and while they shocked a second-string Wallabies team, Fiji and Samoa in June, it is unfathomable that will change tomorrow.

To be blunt, the Scots are too predictable. They will be physical and attempt to rumble and ruck their way to an ugly and unlikely victory. Attacking wider out isn't in their best interests or DNA make-up.

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For Richie McCaw, especially, there is more motivation this week than next. He will be determined to set standards in the first match of the tour before handing over the captaincy to Kieran Read in Rome.

There were initial concerns about the All Blacks' elongated preparations. Hansen attempted to change flights when the match was pushed out to Remembrance Day, but Carter was confident the 10-day build up had allowed new combinations to gel.

Fears around the rotational policy have been a talking point but it is clear fringe players are on edge for this two-week trial. The likes of halfback Piri Weepu, midfielders Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith and No 8 Victor Vito have everything to play for.

It's those sub-plots that make this match compelling viewing.

Unfortunately for the Scots, they caught this All Black team in the wrong headspace.

They should brace for a fitting onslaught on Armistice Day.

- Sunday Star Times

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