Rugby Union: Need for Scottish backs to improve

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The Independent Online
JOHN RUTHERFORD believes Scotland's fighting spirit will enable them to bounce back from Tuesday's 51-26 defeat by Fiji in Suva. Rutherford, the assistant coach, admitted the Scots did not do themselves any favours with some weak back play in the opening match of their tour.

However, he felt certain that that beating would not destroy confidence. "I know that it is difficult to get over a defeat but the good thing about Scots players is that they can pick themselves up again," Rutherford said.

In contrast, the Fiji coach, Brad Johnstone, a former All Black front rower, fears the worst for the Scots when they meet Australia in two internationals next month. "They're going to have to improve markedly to hold any southern hemisphere nation. They've got a big job, it's going to be a big ask for them to compete with the Wallabies," Johnstone said.

Scotland have delayed announcing their team to face Victoria in Melbourne on Saturday until today. But the expectation is that those players who did not play against Fiji will be given an outing. Rutherford is looking for a big improvement from the backs. "Basically, we played too flat an alignment," he said. "What we have to is vary our angle of attack and ensure that there are players forming a second wave of attack."

Rod Macqueen, the Australia coach, did not welcome Fiji's win, saying: "The last thing we want is more pressure put on us with suggestions they [the Scots and England] are under strength."

The Australian Rugby Union is becoming concerned over ticket sales for the internationals against England and Scotland, with both countries minus much of their best talent. The Scots' first international against Australia, in Sydney on 13 June, is selling reasonably well and is expected to draw a good crowd on the day. The ARU is banking on the Scots proving competitive to boost sales for the second international in Brisbane on 20 June.

l Wales suffered another setback yesterday as they prepared for their tour of southern Africa, with Allan Bateman ruled out of the trip. The Richmond and British Isles centre will have surgery next Wednesday - the day after Wales leave for Zimbabwe - on a nose injury he sustained at the start of this year.

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