Scots may rest key men for All Blacks tie

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The immediate World Cup future for Scotland is not so much all black as somewhat grey. New Zealand will have an unfamiliar look about them at Murrayfield on Sunday, sporting silver-grey change shirts, but it seems that Scotland too could be semi-recognisable.

With his team's crucial Pool C contest against Italy in St-Etienne just six days later, Frank Hadden, the head coach of the Scots, is giving serious consideration to sending out what might be described as a half-strength team to face the near full might of the tournament favourites.

Asked whether he would field his "top team", Hadden said: "In this tournament in my opinion it's very difficult to talk about a 'first team'. What is your 'first side?' It's just the 'next side'. And the next side will be the team that we pick to hopefully get us the result we need on Sunday."

Following Scotland's highly encouraging 42-0 result against Romania at Murrayfield on Tuesday night, Hadden and his fellow selectors – the assistant coaches Alan Tait and George Graham – have given themselves until tomorrow afternoon to sift through their options and come up with their "next side" formula. New Zealand picked theirs yesterday.

With the notable exceptions of the rested Jerry Collins, the benched Chris Jack and the injured Keven Mealamu and Mils Muliaina, it includes the usual big guns, among them Doug Howlett, who will have the chance to nudge ahead of Christian Cullen as the outright holder of his country's try-scoring record.

The question in Scotland is whether Hadden will rest a raft of key players, or at least start with several of them on the bench. The Scots have never beaten the All Blacks but running up the white flag of a significantly weakened team sheet for Murrayfield's World Cup showpiece is seen by many as anathema – not least by those who have shelled out £164 for the top-dollar tickets in what is close to being a 67,500 sellout crowd.

The dilemma has split Scottish rugby down the middle. "The result against Italy is the one that will get us into the quarter-finals," the former Scotland stand-off Gregor Townsend said, "but I think the way of doing that is by putting the full team out against New Zealand and keeping the momentum going."

"I think there's no point showing all our cards," the one-time Scotland second-rower Doddie Weir countered. "Let's wait until the final and then play our strongest side against the All Blacks."

Comments