IT was not the polished performance Scotland were hoping for ahead of taking New Zealand – a team they have never beaten in 31 previous meetings – next Sunday, but head coach Gregor Townsend focused on the positives after Saturday’s scrappy 28-12 win against plucky but underprepared Fiji.

The last time the mighty All Blacks visited Murrayfield was during Townsend’s first season in charge of the national side, in November 2017, when the home team pushed their illustrious opponents all the way.

As the game entered injury time, New Zealand were on the ropes following a Huw Jones’ try which brought Scotland back to just 22-17 down. They had replacement prop Wyatt Crockett in the sin-bin for piling through a ruck and clattering Ali Price before he had moved the ball in a desperate attempt to derail home momentum.

Then full-back Stuart Hogg – who was in inspired form – burst New Zealand’s defensive line on the left touchline and it looked like he was going to score the try which would have set up a conversion for a historic win, but Beauden Barrett somehow managed a sensational cover tackle, and as Hogg tried to unload possession back in field the ball floated forward.

Referee Matthew Carley blew the final whistle, leaving all 15 Scots on the pitch, 60-odd thousand fans in the Murrayfield stands and millions of supporters worldwide exhilarated by the team’s heroic late rally, but ultimately heartbroken that they had not quite managed to get over the line.

Now Townsend and his players have another chance to break their duck against world rugby’s most successful team at the 32nd time of asking, and the coach believes the fact that Doddie Weir – who is fighting the ravaging effects of Motor Neurone Disease – will be back at the national stadium on Sunday should send motivation levels through the roof.

“There is 100 years of unfinished business,” said Townsend. “That was a special occasion, not for the game so much but what that night meant to Scottish rugby with Doddie Weir there to present the match ball.

“It is five years on, and Doddie is going to be there at the weekend so that is something I am sure everyone will want to recognise. We’ll all want to acknowledge what he has done since he launched his foundation [which has raised millions of pounds to fight MND].”

Townsend acknowledged that his team are going to have to raise their game significantly this week if they are to compete against New Zealand, having struggled to put Fiji to the sword on Saturday.

In the first half, the Scots let themselves down with poor discipline, and although that area of their game improved after the break, they could not find a way to kill off their tiring opponents, who had only come together for the first time on Monday evening.

Scotland ended up with a win but nobody in the home camp felt like celebrating. There is a general sense that the team are not quite clicking at the moment, but Townsend is taking the view that a big event such as a visit from the mighty All Blacks can have a galvanising effect.

“We have to create a special occasion again on the field,” he said. “I believe that in the 2017 game we didn’t have the level of confidence in the first half to win that game. We played some brilliant rugby in the first half and should have scored more points, but it was 3-3 at the break.

“Then we found ourselves chasing after it in the last 10 or 15 minutes and we almost won, so it’s a reminder that we have to take opportunities when we are playing really well against one of the best teams in the world.”

Stand-off Adam Hastings is a major doubt for next weekend’s match due to whiplash and a knee injury sustained against Fiji, and Townsend insisted that he would have no problem with asking Finn Russell to join the squad if that is required.

The player and the coach have a turbulent history which is understood to be the reason why Scotland’s most creative talent was not named in the initial squad for this series.

“He [Russell] missed out on selection, like a number of guys, so he would be in the mix for any changes we have to make there, if we have to make a change,” said Townsend.

“That was a big knock Adam got – not on the head, it was whiplash. We will have to see what that means for him with stand-down time, whether it is six days or 12 days, and we also have to assess his knee.”

Northampton Saints stand-off Fin Smith, who is English-born to Scottish parents, and whose grandfather Tom Elliot played for Scotland and the Lions, has also been in discussions with Townsend – but calling up the 20-year-old for the first time at such short notice seems unlikely.

“Obviously, he has not played for Scotland before,” said Townsend. “If he is in the mix he would have to make a decision to committing to one of the two teams he is qualified for. He did really well on Friday night when he was man-of-the-match, so if he decides to commit to Scotland it would be great for depth to have other options.

“You never know. But the last time I spoke to him his focus was on his club during this period because he hasn’t played a lot this season due to injury.”

Hooker George Turner is also a doubt due to a shoulder injury.

New Zealand’s form has been patchy by their own high standards – losing four games this year – but they were convincing 55-23 victors over Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.