Rugby Union: All Blacks ready to ride the tide of history: Hastings looks to Scotland's winning habit at Murrayfield for an upset to provide him with his greatest achievement

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IN 16 attempts over 88 years the closest Scotland have got to New Zealand was the drawn matches of 1964 and 1983, and there is no good reason to suppose this one-sided entry in rugby history will be amended this afternoon at Murrayfield.

The Scots recognise, perhaps in trepidation, that for the All Blacks what has gone before on this tour - five wins in England and three in Scotland - has been important only as preparation for the Test matches. Be that as it may, what superb preparation it has been.

Knowing what they do the Scots expect, and fear, that Sean Fitzpatrick's team will be at a higher level today than they have yet been. 'The All Blacks have a lot in reserve, a lot to come out yet,' Douglas Morgan, the Scotland coach, said yesterday. He might have asked for something slightly less imposing for his first match as Ian McGeechan's successor.

It was either a smile or a wince accompanying a remark that emphasised the enormity of the task confronting Scotland. What a pity that only 37,500 of the 67,500 places that will ultimately be available at the rebuilt ground are ready, because if ever a team needed vocal encouragement this is it.

At least there has been enough uncertainty about New Zealand's performances since the annihiliation of the South 10 days ago to keep Scottish hope alive, though the Scots may be interested to know that an unbeaten record

going into the Murrayfield Test was not the New Zealand public's confident expectation when their team left home.

'Every tour is judged on its Test record but a lot of people in New Zealand would be very surprised that we have arrived here with eight wins, some of them by big margins,' Fitzpatrick said yesterday. There have been small margins, too. 'At this point of the tour we are very grateful for the hard matches we have had.'

Last Saturday's game against Scotland A was a case in point and today's match will hinge on whether it has been the Scots or the All Blacks who have derived more benefit from it. The tourists have been concentrating on their line- out; Scotland have assembled their biggest-ever pack.

But even this is no more than a problem for the smaller All Blacks and whenever they face a problem they simply analyse and solve it. The nullification of the Lions' line-out between the second and third Tests last summer was a classic example.

Scotland know this. 'They obviously would be a wee bit worried after last week's performance,'

Morgan said. 'But we realise that during the week they haven't been sitting back and doing nothing. The Blacks will not have been hanging around. But it has given the boys the belief that it can be done'

By dominating New Zealand at the line-out, the A-team cut off the most important source of supply in the modern game, and hit them hard and remorselessly in the tackle. 'Especially against the All Blacks, you have no room for errors. You have to knock them back, cut down your penalty-count and when you get into their 22 you have to get points,' said Rob Wainwright, who played last Saturday and does so again today.

The A team failed on the last of Wainwright's criteria, just as most notably the Midlands and South- West had while the Blacks were in England, which suggests that the difference is as much psychological as physical. As Morgan put it: 'The winning habit is a good habit.'

It is not a habit anyone, least of all the Scots, has got into against the All Blacks though they did run Gary Whetton's team close in the third-place match at the 1991 World Cup and were unfortunate to come away from their 1990 tour of New Zealand with no Test victory. And a habit the Scots do have is the winning one at Murrayfield, where England have been the only visiting victors since Australia in 1988.

'Upsets have happened at Murrayfield before and we are used to winning here,' Gavin Hastings, the Scotland captain, said yesterday, uppermost in his mind being the 1990 Grand Slam match against England. 'If we won, it would be as great an achievement as any in my short rugby career.'

Not so short actually. He has had a few and at least he already knows how it feels, having led the Lions to their record win in the second Test in Wellington in June, though that was followed by the despair of the clinching defeat in Auckland a week later.

And even if their team is much changed, the baleful experience of the crisis week between those Lions Tests ensures that these All Blacks are ready for Scotland. 'I can still recall it so clearly when we sat in the changing-room after the second Test and said 'Remember how you feel now',' Fitzpatrick said. 'You find with most All Black teams they remember the losses rather than the wins.'

They hurt and, as the Scots are about to find, All Blacks do not like being hurt. Just big softies, really.

----------------------------------------------------------------- SCOTLAND'S RECORD AGAINST NEW ZEALAND ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1905 L 12-7 Inverleith 1935 L 18-8 Murrayfield 1954 L 3-0 Murrayfield 1964 D 0-0 Murrayfield 1967 L 14-3 Murrayfield 1972 L 14-9 Murrayfield 1975 L 24-0 Auckland 1978 L 18-9 Murrayfield 1979 L 20-6 Murrayfield 1981 L 11-4 Dunedin L 40-15 Auckland 1983 D 25-25 Murrayfield 1987 L 30-3 Christchurch (World Cup) 1990 L 31-16 Dunedin L 21-18 Auckland 1991 L 13-6 Cardiff (World Cup) -----------------------------------------------------------------

----------------------------------------------------------------- SCOTLAND V NEW ZEALAND ----------------------------------------------------------------- (at Murrayfield) G Hastings Watsonians, capt 15 J Timu Otago A Stanger Hawick 14 J Wilson Otago I Jardine Stirling County 13 F Bunce North Harbour G Shiel Melrose 12 M Cooper Waikato S Hastings Watsonians 11 V Tuigamala Auckland C Chalmers Melrose 10 M Ellis Otago A Nicol Dundee HSFP 9 S Forster Otago A Watt Glasgow High/Kelvinside 1 C Dowd Auckland K Milne Heriot's FP 2 S Fitzpatrick Auckland, capt P Burnell London Scottish 3 O Brown Auckland D Cronin London Scottish 4 I Jones North Auckland A Macdonald Heriot's FP 5 S Gordon Waikato D McIvor Edinburgh Academicals 6 J Joseph Otago G Weir Melrose 8 A Pene Otago R Wainwright Edinburgh Academicals 7 Z Brooke Auckland Replacements: 16 K Logan (Stirling County), 17 D Wyllie (Stewart's Melville FP), 18 B Redpath (Melrose), 19 C Hogg (Melrose), 20 A Sharp (Bristol), 21 K McKenzie (Stirling County). Replacements: 16 E Clarke (Auckland), 17 J Preston (Wellington), 18 B Larsen (North Harbour), 19 P Henderson (Southland), 20 M Allen (Taranaki), 21 N Hewitt (Hawke's Bay). Referee: F Burger (South Africa)Kick-off: 2pm. -----------------------------------------------------------------