Not since 1990, really, and maybe fleetingly in 1999, has
anyone really feared the Scots.
Back in 1990, they could play. Gavin and Scott Hastings,
Finlay Calder, John Jeffrey, Derek White, Gary Armstrong and
David Sole - tough men, good players, British Lions, the lot.
There was a smart coaching duo back then, too, with Ian
McGeechan and Jim Telfer. They were the ultimate good cop,
bad cop pairing - Telfer often more fearsome than any
opposition players the Scots would meet on the field.
The 1990 vintage were memorably good. They won a Grand Slam
and then came out to New Zealand and came within a whisker of
a victory at Eden Park. What is hard to recall now is that
not only were they a good side, but they also had belief and
Just this week Sean Lineen, the original kilted Kiwi who
played second-five in that team, recalled how the team had
realised after losing the first test in Dunedin that they had
been crippled by their respect for the All Blacks, a respect
that had bordered on fear.
Lineen said captain David Soul's wife had rung after the loss
to say it looked like the team had been beaten before
kick-off. They reviewed the tape and, sure enough, the body
language during the haka was defensive, timid even.
So come the second encounter in Auckland, the Scots dug deep
into the rich well of history and remembered that throughout
time the nation had been defined by its sense of defiance. If
nothing else, Scots have forever been gloriously brave.
William Wallace died in physical agony but mentally his world
was at peace - he didn't die wondering.
Lineen and his teammates came so close to a famous win in
1990 because they were not only gifted, but they were also
committed and passionate. The teams that preceded for much of
the next period were not so gifted, but always just as
committed and passionate. Sheer belligerence and a willing to
die for the cause were all Scotland had for much of the early
Sadly, and this is the reason there appears to be virtually
no hope among the locals of a massive surprise against the
All Blacks on Monday morning (NZT),
Scotland have too often misplaced their passion in recent
years when they have played the All Blacks and lamely
accepted their fate in advance. To many in Edinburgh,
Monday's encounter will be yet another inevitable procession
to defeat, a functional side going through the motions until
they are out of their misery.
Mentally, the All Blacks own Scotland.
In 2007, Scotland bottled the chance to make history when
they picked their second team at the World Cup to play the
All Blacks in the pool stages. That wasn't the Scottish way.
In 2008, there was only fleeting resistance before the Scots
slipped away quietly to a 32-6 defeat.
Their last encounter was maybe the nadir. They were routed
49-3 and had given up after 30 minutes. No belief, no
passion, no hope - it was a long 80 minutes as it will be on
Monday unless Scotland can locate that piece of DNA deep
within and throw the kitchen sink at the All Blacks.
There are obvious places where the Scots will be second best
but, while they can't match the All Blacks for creativity,
ball skills or speed, there is no reason why they can't play
with greater desire.
- By Gregor Paul of the Herald on Sunday in Edinburgh