Scotland v New Zealand, Autumn Tests 2017 – match preview

KO 5.15
Saturday 18th November
Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

Live on BBC2 Scotland

There is no tougher test in world rugby than taking on the All Blacks. With growth mindset to the fore though for Gregor Townsend and his men it’s likely they will learn more about themselves from the 80 minutes on Saturday (and the preparation and post match analysis) than any other game they play ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

  • The two nations have met 30 times before with the aggregate score a rather disturbing 900 – 332 in the All Blacks’ favour.
  • The Kiwis have scored 126 tries in those previous meetings, Scotland have notched just 31.
  • Good news / bad news. The good news is Scotland have outscored New Zealand by 9 drop goals to 0. The bad news is there’s no-one in the Scotland squad who has managed a DG in a top flight match…*

Starting XV stats:
Backs

26.5   Average age   26.7   
172   
Test caps   243
51   
Tries scored   79

Forwards
26.2   Average age   28.3
145
   Test caps   332
906kg   Pack weights   908kg

  • New Zealand can also call upon a further 189 caps from the bench with Nathan Harris the least experienced player – appearing in his 10th Test.
  • Scotland by contrast have 72 caps in reserve. The backup front row have 5 previous Test appearances aomng them.
  • Luke Hamilton and Byron McGuigan are in line to become Scotland cap numbers 1087 and 1088 if they make it off the bench.

SCOTLAND
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Huw Jones
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Lee Jones
10 Finn Russell
9 Ali Price
HEAD-TO-HEAD
ADV Scotland
EVEN
ADV New Zealand
ADV New Zealand
ADV New Zealand
ADV New Zealand
ADV New Zealand
NEW ZEALAND
15 Damian McKenzie
14 Waisake Naholo
13 Ryan Crotty
12 Sonny Bill Williams
11 Rieko Ioane
10 Beauden Barrett
9 Aaron Smith

1 Darryl Marfo
2 Stuart McInally
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Ben Toolis
5 Jonny Gray
6 John Barclay (c)
7 Hamish Watson
8 Cornell Du Preez
.
ADV New Zealand
ADV New Zealand
EVEN
EVEN
ADV New Zealand
ADV New Zealand
EVEN
ADV New Zealand

1 Kane Hames
2 Codie Taylor
3 Nepo Laulala
4 Luke Romano
5 Sam Whitelock
6 Vaea Fifita
7 Sam Cane
8 Kieran Read (c)

16 George Turner
17 Jamie Bhatti
18 Simon Berghan
19 Grant Gilchrist
20 Luke Hamilton
21 Henry Pyrgos
22 Peter Horne
23 Byron McGuigan
.
ADV New Zealand
ADV New Zealand
ADV New Zealand
ADV New Zealand
ADV New Zealand
ADV New Zealand
EVEN
ADV New Zealand

16 Nathan Harris
17 Wyatt Crockett
18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
19 Liam Squire
20 Matt Todd
21 TJ Perenara
22 Lima Sopoaga
23 Anton Lienert-Brown

New Zealand scouting report

  • World cup cycle
    One of the many things the All Blacks do well is to continuously bring through and develop new players. At the mid-point of the 2019 RWC cycle they are well into the process of shaping their 31-man squad. Of Saturday’s team only Aaron Smith, Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read started the last World Cup final but the standards set by that side have been maintained even as new talent has taken over with one eye on Japan.
  • Heavy workload
    This will be the 13th Test match in the space of 23 weeks for New Zealand. That’s a lot of rugby and while they will no doubt benefit from so much time together there has to be some fatigue (both physical and mental) in there.
  • Chink in the armour
    (And the straw clutching begins) New Zealand’s winning percentage of 75% so far this year is their lowest since 2009. If it hadn’t been for a late rally against South Africa they might have been coming into the game on a lowly(!) 67%. All joking aside Scotland have to find any way they can to humanise the All Blacks and their extraordinary level of success or the game will be lost before it even kicks off.
  • How to beat the All Blacks
    With difficulty! The British and Irish Lions edged out New Zealand with a stifling defensive intensity that held the Kiwis try-less for the first time in 3 years. Australia’s recent victory was based on holding onto the ball and forcing the All Blacks to make almost twice as many tackles (although worth noting the Aussies maintained a 91% tackle completion rate themselves).The model for Scotland is more likely to be in the style of Australia but it will need an increase in accuracy in attack and a reduction in defensive errors too if they are to try and emulate that performance to any degree.

Previous meetings at Murrayfield

In the 82 years since New Zealand’s first visit these two sides have clashed on 17 occasions at Murrayfield with 15 wins for the men in black and 2 draws.

Last meeting 15th November 2014:

Scotland 16 – 24 New Zealand

New Zealand turned out what might charitably have been called a development side the last time they touched down in Scotland. 6 Kiwis return from that fixture – Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Luke Romano, Sam Cane, Wyatt Crockett and TJ Perenara.

Stuart Hogg, Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour, Finn Russell and Jonny Gray all featured in a game which felt like it might have been Scotland’s best chance of turning over the All Blacks. Late errors proved costly as the home side first missed the opportunity to go ahead then conceded a try that put the game out of reach.

Only 10 Scots have ever scored tries against New Zealand at Murrayfield. Given the improvements in their attacking play over recent years it would be nice to see at least 2 or 3 names added to that list on Saturday.

Officials:

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant 1: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant 2: Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)

This will be the second time Mr. Carley has refereed Scotland with the previous occasion coming in last season’s Autumn Internationals when he sampled the delights of Kilmarnock for the Test against Georgia. If the experience hasn’t put him off too much then another unfussy and controlled performance like that will help keep the contest flowing.

The 13 Warriors on the pitch will be wary of transgressing near Mr. Davies’ touchline –  the Welsh whistler has refereed Glasgow 10 times in the last 3 seasons and awarded 9 yellow cards, 1 red card and 3 penalty tries against the Warriors!

 


* Finn Russell drop kicked a goal against Edinburgh after the ball toppled off the tee but that was still counted as a penalty as it was not from open play!

Picture credit – Adrian Henry. For more of Adrian’s excellent pictures from all levels of Scottish rugby check out rugbypeople.net

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