Hansen wants All Blacks back on track against Scots
EDINBURGH (AFP) –
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen is looking forward to seeing how his much-changed side fare against Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday after “letting themselves down” last time out.
The world champions begin their European tour this weekend undefeated in 17 matches, their hopes of breaking rugby union’s 18-game record for consecutive Test victories were scuppered by an 18-18 draw with Australia last month.
Scotland have never beaten New Zealand, losing 26 out of 28 Tests with two draws — the last back in 1983.
But Hansen, who had made 10 changes to the All Blacks XV that kicked-off against the Wallabies, said he expected Scotland to be “very combative”.
New Zealand’s World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw and fly-half Dan Carter have both been named in the side, while, Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith make up a new combination in midfield.
Despite all the changes the starting side still boasts 556 caps with an additional 267 on the bench.
Hansen had given notice that he would make wholesale changes, but stressed star flanker McCaw was always going to figure in Edinburgh at the start of a tour also featuring internationals against Italy, Wales and England.
“You always want your skipper on the paddock in the first Test,” said Hansen. “We’ve had a good build-up this week and the key for us has been to get our preparation spot-on so we can put in a performance on Sunday we are proud of.”
Hansen explained the introduction of new faces had helped his side avoid any drop in motivation after they won the World Cup on home soil last year.
“Every paper we picked up told us we’d have a hangover and that made us more determined not to,” said Hansen, previously an assistant to World Cup-winning supremo Graham Henry.
“There have been a couple of games where we let ourselves down, one not so long ago,” the former Wales coach said in a reference to the Australia draw.
“But, when they’re on the job, they’ve got a lot of talent and because they’ve got a lot of talent they’re capable of winning games,” said Hansen of a New Zealand side who on their last visit to Murrayfield, in 2010, thrashed Scotland 49-3.
Meanwhile Scotland coach Andy Robinson has challenged Henry Pyrgos to prove he is ready to oust the “old firm” of scrum-halves.
The Glasgow livewire is set to make his Scotland debut as an impact sub when on Sunday.
And the coach wants Pyrgos to show he is the clear heir apparent to the veteran trio Mike Blair, Chris Cusiter and Rory Lawson.
Blair will start against New Zealand but Robinson, thinking ahead to the next World Cup in his native England in three years’ time, said: “Henry deserves his opportunity because of the way he has performed for the Warriors this season in the absence of Chris, who is injured long-term.
Meanwhile an elated Pyrgos said: “It’s just an amazing feeling. This will be a huge opportunity for me if I get on.”
Robinson’s line-up shows five changes from the one that pipped Samoa in Apia to complete the a mini southern hemisphere Grand Slam in June after consecutive wins over Australia and Fiji helped banish the memory of a poor Six Nations.
Nick De Luca returns for the injured Joe Ansbro at centre, Blair starts for Cusiter and up front, Geoff Cross, Jim Hamilton and captain Kelly Brown are in for Euan Murray, Ally Kellock and Richie Vernon respectively
There are also home-turf debuts for Matt Scott and Tim Visser.