Homecoming heightens Bulloch's desire

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The Independent Online

Having created one "Fortress Scotland" last week, registering a 100 per cent record and a century points average on their first visit to McDiarmid Park in Perth, Gordon Bulloch and his team return to another in Glasgow today.

Having created one "Fortress Scotland" last week, registering a 100 per cent record and a century points average on their first visit to McDiarmid Park in Perth, Gordon Bulloch and his team return to another in Glasgow today.

Scotland's oval-ball merchants have played two and won two at Hampden Park: 6-0 against South Africa in 1906 and 60-19 against Romania in 1999. If they are to remain unbeaten there this afternoon - and further sharpen the "Fortress Scotland" vision outlined by Matt Williams when he took over as coach a year ago - they will need to draw heavily upon the inspiration of their captain, a Glaswegian for whom the national football stadium is not unfamiliar territory.

Scotland last beat the Wallabies in 1982 and their only victory against one of the southern hemisphere's big three since then has been their 21-6 success against the Springboks at Murrayfield in 2002. Bulloch enjoyed his finest hour and 20 minutes that day, rock solid at the cornerstone of the scrum and at his bullish best in the loose.

Nobody who takes to the field at Hampden today will be more motivated than Scotland's team-leader and hooker. Bulloch is a proud Glaswegian. He was born in the city, has always lived there and has spent his entire club-playing career there. He knows all about Hampden and its celebrated football roar.

"It's going to be a tremendous occasion for me, leading the team out at Hampden," he said. "I was injured for the game against Romania five years ago, so it'll be my first game there and my first international in my home city. I've been there many times, mainly to see the Scottish football team. My favourite memory was when we beat Spain 3-1 in 1985. Kenny Dalglish got the decisive goal. It was one of his last games for Scotland, I think."

It is a magnanimous if patriotic highlight to select. Dalglish is an icon of Celtic Football Club and, in this most divided of sporting cities, Bulloch, by his own admission, is "a true blue nose". That, for the benefit of those unfamiliar with Glasgow's football rivalry, translates as a die-hard follower of Rangers. It just so happens that Rangers meet Celtic across the city at Ibrox today and, although Bulloch intends to "keep tabs" on developments in the Old Firm game, his focus will be on leading his team at Hampden.

The Scots need to be on their mettle from the 2.45pm start, having shipped 28 points in the opening half-an-hour of their 31-14 loss to the Wallabies two weeks ago. "We've got to put together an 80-minute performance to try and topple them," Bulloch said. "Consistency is the most important thing all round: consistency of performance in the set-pieces and in ball retention. That's what cost us against the Wallabies at Murrayfield and slightly hampered us again last week."

Scotland could afford their temporary lapse against Japan in Perth last Saturday night. They still achieved a record score, racking up 100 points and 15 tries. The opposition this afternoon will not be quite so supine. Indeed, the Wallabies will be fighting to ease wounded pride after their 27-14 loss to France in Paris last week.

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