The North-east’s most experienced coach has boldly predicted Scotland can beat New Zealand tomorrow after more than a century of trying to get the better of the best team in the game.
Alex Duncan, with 20 years of coaching Aberdeen Grammar, Aberdeenshire and Ellon, is confident the Scots, under the shrewd tutelage of Gregor Townsend, can beat the all-conquering All Blacks – this despite the fact Townsend’s charges were less than convincing in seeing off the challenge of Samoa last weekend.
Duncan said: “Scotland are due to beat one of the big guns of the game, especially now that Townsend is in charge.
“We saw some glimpses of how that is possible last week in the 44-38 win at Murrayfield.
“The high tempo game he has introduced, involving centre Huw Jones, full-back Stuart Hogg and winger Tommy Seymour, worked well against Samoa, and is a great example of how Scotland can work off quick, multi-phase possession.”
Warming to his theme, the former Grammar and Ellon midfield player added: “I believe we are seeing a developing brand … but, of course, tomorrow will be about improving the performance against the world’s best game changers.
“New Zealand always test the basic skills of the opposition whether it be in attack or defence. But I honestly think Scotland can go into this game with a swagger.
“They have a core of effective, efficient forwards and enough tempo players who will cause the All Blacks threats based on broken field breaks – all brought about by a coach who is pushing the boundaries all the time.”
Duncan is particularly impressed by the new half-back partnership of stand-off Finn Russell and scrum-half Ali Price.
He said: “These two are the changing face of Scottish rugby, pacey and thoughtful in equal measure.
“In centres Jones and Alex Dunbar we have two of the best, while in Hogg we have one of the most versatile full-backs in world rugby, as he keeps proving in each of his 54 outings for his country. He is well capable of unlocking any defence.”
But while Duncan is confident of the ability of the Scots to compete, he will be looking for captain John Barclay to lead by example in the pack.
“Barclay had a relatively quiet game last week, as was the case in the defeat at Twickenham last season. I’ll be looking for a big performance from him, and the rest of the back row. Otherwise I think our forwards can compete, including on our own ball in the line-out.”
Duncan’s optimism flies in the face of the form book. Of games played between the two sides, the visitors have won 28 of 30, while Scotland have earned two notable draws in 112 years of playing the fixture.
Duncan said: “(Tomorrow) will be 112 years to the day since the two sides first met. So it is time for a Scottish win.
“Why else are we playing the game?”