All Blacks still without a real test as Hadden defends side

SCOTLAND coach Frank Hadden insists his side’s schedule in Pool C of the World Cup forced him to field a weakened team against tournament favourites New Zealand at Murrayfield yesterday.

Hadden made 13 changes from the side which defeated Romania on Tuesday, leaving out most of his key players in order to keep them fresh for the crucial quarter-final decider with Italy in St Etienne on Saturday.

His scratch side, including new caps John Barclay and Alasdair Dickinson, frustrated the All Blacks for an hour before New Zealand crossed for three tries in 20 minutes — but as an exercise in damage limitation it was reasonably successful as their opponents claimed a 40-0 victory.

Scotland now leave Edinburgh to return to France still searching for their first win against New Zealand in 102 years and in the knowledge that their pivotal match in the tournament is just six days away.

Hadden said: “It’s not our decision to have the World Cup format the way it is. When I looked at our draw for the first time and studied it I couldn’t believe it. Having accepted there was nothing I could do about it, we obviously decided to crack on with it and do whatever we needed to do to go as far as we possibly can in this competition. I’m not unhappy with where we are at this moment.

“We are delighted we have a team that can actually practise tomorrow and that is a huge bonus.

“We haven’t selected the team for the Italy game yet but having so many guys available to us because the medics have done such a good job is tremendous and we’re delighted with that.

“We are still very determined to make our supporters proud of our performance at this World Cup and there is still time enough for us to do that.”

Hadden also denied the decision was in anyway a gamble and praised the performance of his debutantes in the pack.

The former Edinburgh coach, who revealed that Chris Paterson was forced off with an eye injury, but that it was not serious, said: “We are not going to be judged about how successful we are in this competition this week.

“Personally I never thought it was a gamble. I thought it was an excellent opportunity for a lot of guys who haven’t played too much this season to put their hand up for selection at this stage in the competition and they will definitely feel that in the days and hopefully weeks to come.”

The All Blacks move serenely towards the last eight, but will be concerned that they failed to face a genuine challenge in the past three weeks, with only Romania still to come before a possible quarter-final meeting with hosts France.

Richie McCaw opened the scoring after just five minutes, following a wonderful reverse pass from Rodney So’oialo, and Doug Howlett added the second 10 minutes later to become the All Blacks’ leading try scorer of all time. Byron Kelleher scored the third try six minutes before half-time, before Ali Williams, Dan Carter and a second from Howlett completed the comprehensive triumph.

New Zealand coach Graham Henry praised Scotland’s physicality and believes it was the kind of confrontation his side needed after brushing aside Italy and Portugal.

Henry said: “We’re pretty happy with the game. We had a big week working on the set piece and it went well. I think we scrummed the best we’ve scrummed all tournament.

“The line-out went pretty well, the defence was okay and in attack we scored six tries and blew a few through skill level so that was a little bit disappointing.

“They were physical and we haven’t been used to that in this tournament, so we just have to improve our concentration and keep possession of the ball but this lesson has come at the right time.

“You have to give the Scots some credit because they defended well and they defended aggressively which we haven’t had in the tournament and I think that’s a good learning experience for us.

“We got a good game of rugby. It was a highly-contested game in the tackle area and that was good for us. It was a very physical game, the most physical we have played so far.”

New Zealand scorers: Tries: McCaw, Howlett 2, Kelleher, Williams, Carter. Cons: Carter 2. Pens: Carter 2.

SCOTLAND: Southwell, Walker, Di Rollo, Henderson, Webster, Paterson, Cusiter, Dickinson, S. Lawson, Smith, MacLeod, S. Murray, Brown, Barclay, Callam.

Replacements: Dewey for Henderson (69), Parks for Paterson (20), R. Lawson for Cusiter (59), Thomson for S. Lawson (58), Kerr for Smith (51), Hamilton for MacLeod (69).

NEW ZEALAND: MacDonald, Howlett, Smith, McAlister, Sivivatu, Carter, Kelleher, Woodcock, Oliver, Hayman, Thorne, Williams, Masoe, McCaw, So’oialo.

Replacements: Evans for MacDonald (20), Toeava for Smith (66), Leonard for Kelleher (59), Hore for Oliver (59), Tialata for Hayman (66), Jack for Williams (67), Lauaki for McCaw (60).

Referee: M Jonker (South Africa).

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