Lamont out to end 103 years of agony

The returning left wing tells Simon Turnbull that belief is the key to breaking Scotland's All Blacks duck
Click to follow

It has been 103 years, and the clock is still ticking. There have been many dark periods in the history of the Scottish rugby union team but none quite as prolonged as that of that of their rivalry with the All Blacks. Their nominal rivalry, that is. Scotland have drawn twice against New Zealand – at Murrayfield in 1964 (a 0-0 chiller) and in 1983 (a 25-25 thriller) – but in more than a century of trying (and quite often without scoring a try) they have never managed to get the better of the Blacks, home or away.

The side Graham Henry sends out for a 5.15pm kick-off at Murrayfield on Saturday might not be of the fullest strength, with a trio of debutants in the pack and with Richie McCaw and Dan Carter detailed to bench duty, but his chosen XV will line up with an aura of All Black invincibility against Scotland that stretches all of the way back to 18 November 1905, when Arthur Balfour was Prime Minister and Emmeline Pankhurst was in prison for her suffragette "militancy". Dave Gallagher, Billy Stead and the rest of the celebrated All Black "Originals" were almost caught cold that day on a skating rink of a pitch at Inverleith but managed to overturn a 7-6 half-time deficit and prevailed 12-7.

In doing so, they assembled the enduring psychological barrier the Caledonian class of 2008 will need to surmount if they are to achieve a breakthrough victory on Saturday. "You've just got to approach it like you approach a game against anyone else," Sean Lamont, Scotland's returning left wing, said.

"You've got to go out and believe you can do it, because if you don't believe then there's no point in you taking the field. You've just got to get absolutely fired up and take it to them.

"You can't be overawed. You've got to respect them because of who they are but you can't back off them because if you do then they'll take it to you. If we run at them hard and hit them hard then we'll have a good chance.

"It would be massive if we beat the All Blacks. To be in the first Scotland team to do that would be brilliant." Indeed it would, but for that to happen Scotland need to find a way through the sea of black shirts to the shore of the opposition try-line.

They have managed to do so only once in their last three matches against New Zealand, when Simon Webster dotted a last-minute consolation score in the 29-10 defeat at Murrayfield in 2005.

Still, the return of the elder Lamont brother will raise Scottish hopes of tangible progress in that department. He was, after all, identified as the chief threat by Wayne Smith, New Zealand's backs coach, when the All Blacks arrived in Edinburgh to prepare for the second leg of their six-match autumn tour.

Smith, a former Northampton coach, spoke of the "strike-power" possessed by the present day Saints wing – a reputation forged by Lamont with the two try-scoring charges that stunned France at Murrayfield on the opening weekend of the Six Nations Championship in 2006. The 6ft 2in, 16st flyer was subsequently invited to pose naked for the risqué Stade Français Dieux du Stade calendar, though not since Scotland's visit to Paris in March last year has he managed to expose the shortcomings of an opposition defence on the international stage.

Then again, Lamont has been absent from Scotland duty since the World Cup quarter-final defeat against Argentina 13 months ago. In November last year, while playing for Northampton, he suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and a torn medial ligament. "I was gutted at the time, because it's a serious thing. "It does go through your head: 'Are you going to get back playing? Are you going to be the same if you come back? How's it going to heal?' "It was a big thing for me. It was my first major injury. I was very lucky.

"I got a good surgeon to do my knee and in the third month of my rehabilitation I went out to the States to see Bill Knowles [the Vermont-based knee rehab expert who has helped Lamont's Scotland team-mate Jason White, the Sale and England outside-half Charlie Hodgson and the footballing Michael Owen]. I've been quite lucky. I've healed well and I've come back in relatively quick time. I'm happy to be back playing for my club and to be called up for a start for Scotland on Saturday."

Sadly for the Scots, there will be just the one Lamont brother on the international comeback trail on Saturday. Rory, a revelation at full-back in last year's World Cup, also missed Scotland's summer tour to Argentina after suffering a fractured cheekbone and eye socket in a collision with Iain Balshaw in the Calcutta Cup victory against England at Murrayfield in March.

The 25-year-old has been back in action this season and in impressive form for Sale but has been ruled out of the first of Scotland's three autumn Tests because of a shoulder problem.Rory could be back in the frame next week, when Frank Hadden ponders his selection options for the visit of the Springboks. For the time being, though, Scotland's head coach is grateful that at least one of his wife's sister's nephews will be in his back three on Saturday.

"We missed Sean when he was out," Hadden said of his distantly-related left wing. "He knows his way to the whitewash." Indeed he does, and Scotland will have to get there if they are to cross their historical All Black Rubicon in Edinburgh on Saturday.