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All Blacks' only fear is not doing themselves justice

For most of the world's rugby sides, an 18-18 draw with Australia in Brisbane would be a pretty satisfying result.

All Blacks in relaxed mood during a training session at Peffermill University yesterday.Picture: Hannah Johnston/ Getty Images
All Blacks in relaxed mood during a training session at Peffermill University yesterday.Picture: Hannah Johnston/ Getty Images

For a few, it would trigger days of national celebrations. In New Zealand, it was treated as a national disaster.

The reigning world champions had clocked up 16 victories on the trot before that stumble two weeks ago. The draw ended their dreams of matching the record of the All Blacks side which clocked up 17 consecutive victories between 1965 and 1969 (subsequently equalled by the Springboks of 1997-98) but it also showed the world that they live by a rather different set of standards to the rest of us.

So, while Scotland's players might cherish the prospect of making history with a first win against New Zealand at Murrayfield on Sunday, All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster made it perfectly plain yesterday that he has no intention of going into the annals for guiding his side to a first defeat to Andy Robinson's side.

"We put pressure on ourselves," said Foster. "The fear is not playing to the level we want to play at. We were disappointed in the hiccup in our last performance, so the first two games [they play Italy in Rome next week] are a chance to put that right."

All things considered, Foster and his fellow coaches have made a decent fist of the job of looking after the All Blacks legacy they inherited when Graham Henry – Sir Graham as he became after the World Cup triumph – stood down a year ago. With the trophy in the bag, and freed from the shackling fear of failure, they have played exuberant, ambitious rugby, sweeping all before them until they came (sort of) unstuck in Brisbane.

Foster said: "We're striving to put great performances on each week. When we don't achieve that we are our own harshest critics. We're here to perform well."

So no chance that a bit of complacency might be creeping in? " I guess we had that kicked out of is in Brisbane, said Foster. "But it's only useful if we use it. We have spent the last few days trying to identify where things went wrong. When we go out on Sunday, we want to play at the level we have been reaching this year."

Scotland suffered an All Blacks backlash when they hosted the New Zealanders at Murrayfield in 2010. Shortly before that game, New Zealand had won 15 matches on the bounce, but their streak ended when they lost narrowly to Australia in Hong Kong. They toiled to an unconvincing win against England in their next match, but they unleashed themselves in Edinburgh, winning by a record 49-3 margin.

In fairness, the Scots were abject that day, and Foster is not drawing any conclusions from the rout. Nor would he rise to the bait when told that Chris Rattue, a New Zealand columnist whose tendency towards piety does nothing to disguise his fundamental lack of talent, had dismissed Scotland as a joke team who "play a turgid, ineffective game that belongs in a cave."

(Reports suggest Rattue may be an expert in cave-dwelling, for it is said he never ventures outside his office to examine sport at close quarters.)

Yet there was still a whiff of faint praise in Foster's assessment of Scotland. "They play with a lot of enthusiasm and are a team who hold on to the ball well so we know we have to defend well. They have brought a lot of line speed into their game defensively.

"We have respect for Scottish rugby. They have a great history. I've watched Scotland for years, so being at Murrayfield is going to be fantastic. Scotland are a very capable team and we're well aware of that."

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