Matt Butler: Guscott reminds us that no one, not even Carter, is an unstoppable machine
The View From The Sofa: Scotland v New Zealand BBC1
For those who switched on any more than 15 seconds into the coverage of yesterday's match against New Zealand, Scotland have actually won sporting events in their history. Not against the All Blacks, of course. But, apart from the opening clips of Chris Hoy, Katherine Grainger and Andy Murray winning gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games, the BBC pundits made out as though Scotland were a non-sporting outpost which hadn't won anything in decades.
To remind people otherwise, it took an Englishman, Jeremy Guscott.
John Inverdale, the presenter of yesterday's match at Murrayfield, gave Scottish fans a glimmer of hope that their rugby team would beat New Zealand for the first time in over a century of meetings by mentioning Celtic's victory over Barcelona last week. But then he did the equivalent of chucking a bucket of iced water over supporters' heads by saying the All Blacks represent "the biggest rugby mountain of them all" and that just as the Catalans have Lionel Messi, the All Blacks have Dan Carter. Except, as Inverdale added, Carter is better. His pundits flanking Guscott on the pitch, Jonathan Davies and Andy Nicol, nodded sagely as if Inverdale had boldly claimed that bears perform their ablutions in wooded areas.
Davies openly guffawed when Inverdale asked Nicol whether any Scotland players would get into the All Blacks team. "It wouldn't be many," the former Wales fly-half said after composing himself.
But thank heavens Guscott was on hand to balance the shoulder-shrugging defeatism, which even Jill Douglas joined in when she interviewed the Scotland coach Andy Robinson pre-match with questions along the lines of "what's the point?". Not that Robinson retorted with any Braveheart-style fighting words.
"If we can win collisions and establish a go-forward, we can be satisfied," Robinson said. If any reader knows what this means, please let us know.
It was down to Guscott to provide the plain English by saying: "You can't go with the mindset to defend. I look forward to Scotland having a go," before predicting a much closer contest than his peers.
And his words proved to be prescient 14 minutes into the game when Tim Visser – a Dutchman, but we'll overlook that fact for now – ran over for the opening try of the game, an interception score after Carter – gasp – had misplaced a pass.
This try and a penalty meant Scotland were at least level for 15 minutes of the first half. And the home team held their own in defence in patches, as well as scoring another try before half-time. Sure, New Zealand scored four tries before the break and went on to win convincingly, despite the second-half sin-binning of Adam Thomson.
But Guscott still refused to join in the half-time fawning by Nicol and Inverdale ("You just have to sit back and admire them," the former Scotland captain said as if he was watching Michelangelo putting the final touches on the Sistine Chapel.)
Guscott screwed up his face and all but told his studio colleagues to quit the cooing. He quite rightly said if Scotland do this, that or the other, they have a chance – and that no team is unbeatable. And the former England centre should be commended for reminding people that no matter who the opposition is, it is always prudent to have a bit of belief.
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