Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Scots need to reclaim desire

Andy Robinson the Scotland head coach. Photo / AP
Andy Robinson the Scotland head coach. Photo / AP

Not since 1990 really, and maybe fleetingly in 1999, has anyone really feared the Scots. That time 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: 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, they had belief and passion.

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 that captain David Soul's wife had rung after the loss to say that 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 team-mates 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 professional age. Sadly, and this is the reason there appears to be virtually no hope among the locals of a massive surprise, 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, Sunday'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 Sunday unless the Scots 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.

- Herald on Sunday

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Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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