Paterson challenges Scotland to 'make a stand for home nations'
First the good news for Scotland. The All Blacks will be officially off colour at Murrayfield on Sunday afternoon. They will in fact be the All Silvers, donning their second-choice jerseys for the Pool C fixture to avoid a clash with the navy blue of the hosts.
"We'll still be playing for New Zealand and running out with the same guys," the second row Chris Jack observed yesterday. That is the bad news for the Scots.
Still, at least the haka should be a particularly sparkling one, bringing a little extra glitz to a ground that might well be in need of it after the first of Scotland's World Cup home games tonight. Sixteen temporary bars have been installed at Murrayfield in readiness for the lifting of a 25-year alcohol ban, yet less than 30,000 tickets have been sold for the 8pm kick-off against Romania. In terms of World Cup fever at least, having opened their campaign in the heaving Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in St-Etienne nine days ago, with a 56-10 victory against Portugal, Scotland's glass is likely to be half-full in their 67,500-capacity bowl.
"I think it would be a shame if we were to do something special in this World Cup and people missed an opportunity to come and see us," said Frank Hadden, Scotland's head coach. "They would be kicking themselves." Similarly, Hadden and his players will be kicking themselves if they miss the opportunity to reach the halfway mark in their group fixtures without another victory and also another bonus point.
The Romanian pack might have succeeded in getting their teeth into Italy in Marseilles last Wednesday night, but "the Oaks" showed nothing other than a little basic forward bite in the course of that 24-18 defeat that might give Hadden and his players any reason to fear. With Simon Webster at outside centre and the Lamont brothers and Chris Paterson in their back three, Scotland have the gas to give their opponents the run-around. In Paterson's right boot, they also have the weapon to punish any indiscipline.
Not that there is an absence of caution within the Scotland camp. Far from it. "Romania will be tough and dangerous opponents," Hadden maintained. "Many of their players play with the very best club sides in France and we're going to be very respectful.
"Of course, they pose a challenge. They're like Georgia. They're big and strong enough to cause a lot of damage. What we have to do, which is no secret, is play quickly. We must try to sharpen everything up."
Where that might leave the Scots, with the visit of the All Blacks – sorry, the All Silvers – just five days away remains to be seen. The blunt truth is they need to win tonight and against Italy in St-Etienne on Saturday week. The small matter of the looming visit of the tournament favourites is almost incidental to the Scots, who have never beaten New Zealand and are likely to start with several key players on the bench on Sunday.
"We have to get Romania out of the way first," Paterson said. "We have to win. Then we've got the All Blacks, which brings its own speciality in a World Cup. Let's hope we can get a big win this week and cause damage against the All Blacks. Somebody has to make a stand for the home nations. Let's hope it's us."
Scotland: R Lamont (Sale); S Lamont (Northampton), S Webster (Edinburgh), R Dewey (Ulster), C Paterson (Gloucester); D Parks (Glasgow), M Blair (Edinburgh); G Kerr (Edinburgh), R Ford (Glasgow), E Murray (Northampton), N Hines (Perpignan), J Hamilton (Leicester), J White (Sale, capt), A Hogg (Edinburgh), S Taylor (Stade Français). Replacements: S Lawson (Sale), C Smith (Edinburgh), S Macleod (Llanelli) K Brown (Glasgow), C Cusiter (Perpignan), H Southwell (Edinburgh), N Walker (Ospreys).
Romania: I Dumitras; C Fercu, C Gal, R Gontineac, G Brezoianu; I Dimofte, L Sirbu; P Toderasc, M Tincu, B Balan, S Socol (capt), C Petre, Fcorodeanu, A Manta, O Tonita. Replacements: S Florea, R Mavrodin, C Ratiu, A Tudori, V Calafeteanu, I Tofan, Fvlaicu.
Referee: N Owens (Wales)