Robinson ready for All Blacks

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The Independent Online

Andy Robinson expects his side to front up physically as Scotland go in search of a first Test win over New Zealand in Saturday's opening autumn international at Murrayfield.

Robinson made five changes to the starting XV which began Scotland's last Test - the series-clinching second Test win over Argentina on June 19 - with Edinburgh scrum-half Mike Blair named captain in place of Glasgow Warriors second row Alastair Kellock, who was not considered due to a recent knee injury.



Blair was included ahead of Rory Lawson, who is named on the bench, with Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Richie Vernon and Rory Lamont also coming into the first XV, while Ruaridh Jackson could make his debut after being named on the bench.



Blair, who will be captain for the 14th time in his 65th international, has the task of leading his team out to face the Haka, knowing that no Scotland side has beaten the All Blacks in 27 attempts since 1905.



Scotland have lost 25 matches and drawn twice, each time at Murrayfield - 0-0 in 1964 and 25-25 in 1983 - but are full of confidence on the back of a four-match unbeaten run.



The 2-0 series success in Argentina - Scotland's first southern hemisphere series win - followed a draw with England and victory over Ireland during the 2010 RBS 6 Nations, while 12 months ago Robinson's men recorded a first win over Australia in 27 years.



All of which has ignited belief in the Scotland camp ahead of a first Test for five months.



Robinson is optimistic but realistic, knowing his side must perform at their peak to have any hope of overturning the All Blacks, who have lost just one of their last 17 Tests.



Robinson told Press Association Sport: "There's a lot of confidence amongst the squad, but also there's a bit of reality as well, understanding that we've got a lot of work to do to improve.



"We're playing against the best side in the world, who have had two games. We need to be able to start well. In that first 15 minutes we have to go head to head with them, keep the ball and our confidence will grow.



"The key element is that we make sure we can control the scoreboard, particularly in the first half.



"I think the main thing for us is that we focus on ourselves. We put New Zealand under pressure when they've got the ball and we fight like anything to get it back, but when we've got it, we've got to establish a go-forward."



As such, Robinson has selected a mobile and physical unit, the foundation stone of which is tight-head Murray.



The Northampton prop missed the Argentina tour due to an ankle injury, but is preferred to Moray Low due to the knowledge garnered in his 32 internationals.



Kellock is replaced in the second row by Gray, who like number eight Vernon will be making his first Scotland start, with the duo winning their fourth caps.



Vernon replaces fellow Warrior Johnnie Beattie, who has a knee injury, in the back row alongside club-mate John Barclay and Kelly Brown, who moved from Glasgow to Saracens last summer.



Robinson believes it is imperative his side match the All Blacks, who beat England 26-16 last weekend, up front for the full duration of the contest.



"You've got to match them physically," he added. "We've got to be able to get that quality ball so we are able to control possession.



"Every ruck will be challenged, so the ability to dominate the collisions and get a go-forward will certainly help us.



"The accuracy of everything we do will be challenged for the whole 80 minutes. No New Zealand side ever gives up."



The selections of Gray and Vernon - players whom Robinson has high hopes for - demonstrate Scotland's strength in depth, with British Lions tourist Nathan Hines named on the bench alongside Edinburgh flanker Ross Rennie, who has recovered from knee problems and is in contention to add to the one cap he has won to date against Ireland in 2008.



Toulon's Rory Lamont returns from a knee injury to be named on the wing - his brother Sean is on the opposite flank - in place of the injured Simon Danielli of Ulster.



But there is no place for Chris Paterson, Scotland's most-capped player and record points scorer.



Paterson is fit again following a kidney injury suffered against Wales in February, but did not make the final squad of 22 from the 33-man training group.

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