The All Blacks gave a quick sidestep yesterday to an assertion from Herald columnist Chris Rattue that Scotland were "the cavemen" of international rugby.

Rattue questioned why the Scots were still granted Tests against the world champions given their "joke" record against them. "They play a turgid, ineffective game that belongs in a cave because their players have few skills," he added.

Scotland, who provide the opposition at Murrayfield on Sunday in the first match of the All Blacks' European tour, have never beaten New Zealand and have lost by an average of 30 points in their last 12 encounters.

Asked to comment on the caveman jibe, Ian Foster, the All Blacks' backs coach, insisted: "We have massive respect for Scottish rugby. It's got a great history. Scotland are a very capable team. We're aware of that."


Foster said that any danger of the World Cup holders being complacent had been checked by the 18-18 draw against Australia in Brisbane two weeks ago that ended their winning run of 16 matches. "It certainly felt like a defeat," he said. "We've done a lot of soul-searching. We'll learn from it."

Scotland head coach Andy Robinson has picked locks Richie Gray and Jim Hamilton in his starting XV, both having returned to training following injury. "Richie will have a fitness test but we're confident he'll come through it," Robinson said. "I'm not going to put anybody out there who can't be 100 per cent in terms of their physicality and attitude."