Scotland are so bad that even the rugby spin machine may have trouble whirring into action

There was nothing much to rave about on the sporting front over the weekend, and don't hold your breath for anything better from Scotland next week.

The All Blacks versus Scotland is haggis dressed up as ham.

The rugby community will gather forces and pretend there is something historically beautiful about the match-up, although Scotland are so bad that even the rugby spin machine might have trouble whirring into action.

Indeed, the All Blacks departed for yet another (yawn) European crusade with the sort of fanfare reserved for the Olympic taekwondo team, which shows that even the diehards have had enough of these annual returns.


Monday's match is another insult to Pacific Island rugby delivered by that bastion of colonialism - the International Rugby Board.

The IRB makes noises about helping tier-two nations, but their treatment still smacks of tokenism.

The New Zealand Rugby Union happily plays along, denying the PI countries a chance to develop as genuine members of the international rugby community, thus ensuring most of the top young prospects hang about for All Black jerseys. Sanzar, meanwhile, has welcomed old rugby mates Argentina into the fold.

Samoa, Tonga and Fiji have way more potential than Scotland or Argentina.

Yet they are left to stew on the sidelines as the old boys network keeps the prime-time and the money to themselves, protecting their rankings and image along the way.

Scotland's record against the All Blacks is a joke, which isn't their fault, because it is a small, soccer-leaning country of often foul winter weather.

But it is still a joke. In the last 20 years, they have played the All Blacks 12 times and lost by an average score of 14-44, which is even worse when you consider seven of those games were at home and one on neutral turf.

The most recent five matches have all been in Edinburgh, the All Blacks triumphing by an average of 31-5.


Scotland have scored just one try in that run, an irrelevant last-gasp score in 2005 against a second string All Black team that included such notables as Sione Lauaki, Angus Macdonald, James Ryan and Saimone Taumoepeau in the pack. (Taumoepeau, while we are at it, is a classic example of a player who should still be enjoying a long career with Tonga, but was taken out of test circulation thanks to the All Blacks' cynical trial-and-error approach to sorting out their front row at the time.)

Perhaps the most damning statistic involving Scotland is that the All Blacks have played them a whopping 12 times in the past two decades, which tells you who runs world rugby.

It's hard to remember the last time Scotland did anything interesting on a rugby field. They play a turgid, ineffective game that belongs in a cave because their players have few skills.

If there were no alternatives, then fine. Maybe. But there are, and exciting ones that would honour and nurture the amazing contribution that the Pacific Islands make to the game. And yet the All Blacks not only keep the contests against PI countries to a bare minimum, but never play in those lands.

I have met a number of PI rugby characters over the year who are frustrated at the lack of change and their problems finding an effective voice.

Money is at the root of this evil of course, but even financial imperatives are no excuse for the extent of the continuing insult delivered to our rugby neighbours.

Back to Scotland. On the law of averages, one of these European teams may pinch a win one day, but it won't be Scotland. Efforts to drum up enthusiasm for this test involve coverage of the All Blacks' shock-horror move to blood up-and-comers. Honestly troops, save your ink because where Scotland are concerned nobody should care.

Who can blame the All Blacks for using the Scottish match as a development tool? They would be mad not to.

And the only hope of making this game remotely interesting is to select the weakest team possible.