Scotland defence coach Alan Tait believes that Scotland have everything to play for tomorrow ahead of two of their most important Rugby World Cup pool games, and that includes showing the coaches they selected the right team. The Scots are currently sitting in second place in Pool C behind tomorrow's opposition New Zealand due to points difference. Although the visitors to Murrayfield are ranked number one in the world and favourites to win the tournament, the Scotland XV will have a point to prove which, Tait believes, can only benefit the squad. Scotland defence coach Alan Tait believes that Scotland have everything to play for tomorrow ahead of two of their most important Rugby World Cup pool games, and that includes showing the coaches they selected the right team.
The Scots are currently sitting in second place in Pool C behind tomorrowâ€™s opposition New Zealand due to points difference. Although the visitors to Murrayfield are ranked number one in the world and favourites to win the tournament, the Scotland XV will have a point to prove which, Tait believes, can only benefit the squad.
Speaking after an untroubled captain's run at Murrayfield tonight he said: â€œThe good thing about it is the guys that are playing tomorrow are champing at the bit to start. Theyâ€™ve trained all summer to get a game in the World Cup and John Barclay, for one, is desperate to get a go. It's great to see John and Alasdair Dickinson getting their caps. The opportunity for them is immense and something theyâ€™ll never forget for the rest of their lives. They certainly deserve it.
â€œAll these boys in the starting fifteen have been part of the squad and trained really well all summer. Itâ€™s just unfortunate we have not had more games and therefore theyâ€™ve not played much rugby.
â€œHugo Southwell has been kept out in the previous games by Rory Lamont who has been in form so heâ€™ll be desperate to have a go and show what he can do at full back. Heâ€™s a really good player and pushing for a place in the side while Rory doesnâ€™t wasnâ€™t to let the shirt go and is playing out of his skin so Hugo needs a game to prove to the coaches heâ€™s still in the reckoning. That is the key to success - you have to have guys fighting for places."
Tait reiterated the importance of using all thirty players in the squad, not only to create competition, but because of the short turnaround time between games. Scotland had a break of nine days after their first bonus-point victory over Portugal, before having to play three pool games within 11 days.
He said: â€œRegardless of the opposition, these pool games are important and the next one against Italy is massive â€“ I cannot say how huge it is for Scottish rugby and we have to look at that as well.â€
Although the timetable of pool matches is tight, the former British Lion believes the order in which theyâ€™ve faced their opposition has been beneficial, allowing them to build in intensity from their opening match against World Cup debutants Portugal to last Tuesdayâ€™s harder game against Romania.
â€œWhen the players got off the bus at Murrayfield ahead of the game against Romania, they were deadly silent. They were completely focussed. Watching Romania play Italy, it got the guys really focussed. It will be the same tomorrow - weâ€™ll take them seriously and although there may be a few nerves from some of the guys, they will be totally focussed.
â€œThe way it has worked out with the easier games against Portugal and Romania at the start, you want to get a team playing together and try and settle on a side although there are still opportunities out there for the guys tomorrow to put their hands up. The team is not yet picked for Italy and everyone will be in the reckoning for that game when the coaches sit down and discuss it after the New Zealand game.â€
New Zealand are, as Tait knows from his playing days, a â€œmassive challengeâ€, but one, he knows as a coach, can be overcome. He said:
â€œWhen I first started in this job, Jim Telfer and Ian McGeechan asked me what it takes to beat a southern hemisphere side, and I said if you keep them below 20 points, you are always in with a chance. Nowadays, I think you have to keep the opposition below 26 and obviously you have to score that number of points too, to have that opportunity. The main thing is to stop them getting the bonus point and then you have a chance of beating them.â€
The New Zealand side will not be sporting their traditional all black kit tomorrow, but their ambition to win the tournament will still be easily recognisable. They are the favourites, but have only managed to lift the World Cup once, back in the inaugural competition twenty years ago.
â€œEveryone knows it always in the hands of New Zealand and I think sometimes the tension gets too much for them. It seems like the expectation builds up over four years and the pressure is bigger for them than for any other team to win the competition.â€
For Scotland, a victory is a big ask, given they have never beaten New Zealand in 25 tests, and have only recorded two draws during that 102-year period. The stats, however, will not feature in the Scots minds tomorrow afternoon.
Tait concluded:â€œEvery team knows that if they keep up with New Zealand and keep the score close to the end then anything can happen. Our players have all worked well as a group of 30 and they have that fighting spirit to help them on their way to a result tomorrow.â€
The Pool C match at Murrayfield kicks off at 4pm.