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ScotlandItalyScotland head coach Vern Cotter is wary of a physical Italian test as he welcomes the Azzurri to Murrayfield in search of a maiden Six Nations victory.

Cotter has charged Peter Horne with the task of filling Finn Russell’s No 10 shirt – one of 4 changes from the side that lost 23 / 26 to Wales 2 weeks ago.

And he expects the Glasgow Warriors utility man to step up to the plate and help an ever-improving Scotland side turn promising performances into a result.

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ScotlandHead coach Vern Cotter today (Monday) added 5 capped internationalists to Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations squad, 5 days out from the Round 3 Test against Italy this Saturday at BT Murrayfield (28 February, kick-off 14:30 GMT, 16:30 SA Time).

Scrum-half Chris Cusiter and prop Moray Low have been called up from English Premiership clubs Sale Sharks and Exeter Chiefs, along with Glasgow Warriors duo Adam Ashe (No 8) and Alex Allan (prop), and Edinburgh No 8 David Denton.

Cusiter (knee) and Ashe (neck) were absent from Cotter’s initial squad selection due to injury, but have recovered to earn the recall, while Denton has recovered from the calf tear sustained in the national team’s pre-Championship camp in Glasgow last month.

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Finn Russell

Finn Russell

Finn Russell, the Scotland outside half, appeared today before an independent Six Nations Disciplinary Committee at Heathrow, having been cited under Law 10.4 (e) and (i) for an alleged dangerous tackle of an opponent in the air in the 31st minute of the RBS 6 Nations match between Scotland and Wales on Sunday 15 February 2015.

The Disciplinary Committee, chaired by Mike Hamlin (England) along with Jean-Philippe Lachaume (France) and Pat Barriscale (Ireland), having heard from the player and his representative and viewed various TV angles of the incident, determined that Finn Russell had committed an act of foul play which merited a Red Card rather than the on-field Yellow Card given by the Match Officials.

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Scotland (10) 23 / 26 (16) WalesScotland

Where do we begin in analysing a game full of movement, liberally spiced with controversy, which ended with Wales the victors at BT Murrayfield, thus extending their unbeaten record against Scotland to 8 games?

Scotland, who contributed so much to the contest, remain pointless in the RBS 6 Nations Championship as Wales bounced back from their opening round defeat by England.

Scotland will now welcome Italy to BT Murrayfield at the end of this month, which captain Greig Laidlaw cites as a “massive” game.

“We’re getting better as a team, becoming stronger but we need to get a result,” he said.

“Small margins,” has been the mantra in international rugby for many a year but we saw it so painfully from a Scottish perspective this afternoon.

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ScotlandHead Coach Vern Cotter has made 2 enforced changes to the starting Scotland side to face Wales at BT Murrayfield Stadium this Sunday (kick-off 15:00 BST & GMT, 17:00 SA Time).

Glasgow Warriors wing Sean Lamont – the most capped player in Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations squad with 91 appearances – has made a timely return from the calf injury that ruled him out of the nation’s opening championship match against France, as a direct replacement for club-mate Tommy Seymour, who has not yet recovered fully from the hip injury sustained in Paris.

The 2nd change sees London Irish tight-head prop Geoff Cross promoted from the bench in place of Euan Murray, who is unavailable on the Sabbath due to his religious beliefs, with Jon Welsh taking the substitute spot vacated by Cross.

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ScotlandAfter an improved performance, though unable to turn possession into points, Scotland Women look ahead to their first home game at the new base of Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld. The team announced to take on Wales (Saturday 14 February, kick-off 17: BST & GMT) sees 4 changes to the line-up that started against France at La-Roche-sur-Yon last Saturday.

All the changes come in the backs, scrumhalf Mhairi Grieve – who will be securing her 3rd cap – moves up from the bench while Hannah Sloan comes in at wing. Injury to Gillian Inglis during the game against France sees Chloe Rollie move from centre to fullback and Hannah Smith – winning her 2nd cap – takes the No 13 jersey.

Worcester prop Tracy Balmer captains the squad again, lining up in the front-row alongside the most experienced member of the team, 72-times capped Heather Lockhart.

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FranceProp Eddy Ben Arous’s inclusion in place of injured Alexandre Menini is France’s only change from the win over Scotland for Saturday’s Six Nations game against Ireland in Dublin.

Menini was replaced by Racing Metro’s Ben Arous early in the second half in Saturday’s game in Paris after sustaining a foot injury.

Ben Arous, 24, will be making his 1st start after winning 2 previous caps.

Camille Lopez’s 5 penalties helped France edge out Scotland 15 / 8.

With Brice Dulin still hampered by an arm injury, Scott Spedding will again start at fullback.

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George North down against England on the weekend

George North down against England on the weekend

Wales have made 1 change to their side to face Scotland on Sunday, with Liam Williams coming into the starting 15.

Scarlets back Williams will win his 20th cap at Murrayfield and replaces George North.

North is currently symptom free and whilst nearing the conclusion of the graduated return to play protocol the decision has been taken to allow him an elongated recovery period in light of his recent concussive episode in the autumn period.

The 1 change results in the same starting backline that beat South Africa, in the final autumn international, taking to the field this weekend.

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World RugbyA strong second half saw Rugby World Cup 2015 hosts England storm back to beat Wales 21 / 16 in their Six Nations opener in Cardiff, a result which lifted them above Ireland back to 3rd in the latest World Rugby rankings.

According to the World Rugby (previously IRB), the victory sees England regain the mantle as the leading northern hemisphere nation in the rankings behind New Zealand and South Africa and they now sit 0.35 points above Ireland after their 26 / 3 victory over Italy in Rome had no impact due to the 11 places separating the teams.

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FranceScotlandFrance (9) 15 / 8 (8) Scotland (Final Score)

France and Scotland did battle in the RBS 6 Nations at

Stade de France, Paris, France at 19:00 SA Time (18:00 French Time, 17:00 BST & GMT).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 on TV in SA.

*******************

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Ryan Wilson

Ryan Wilson

Scottish Rugby has suspended Ryan Wilson for three months without pay following his conviction for assault.

It was also decided that the 25-year-old Glasgow Warriors loose forward will not be considered for Scotland selection until late August, meaning he misses the Six Nations.

Last week, Wilson, capped nine times, was found guilty of assaulting a fellow rugby player on a night out.

Wilson, who has been with Glasgow since 2010, has the right to appeal.

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SIX Nations 2015 Launch

The World Cup countdown is officially on, as the Six Nations sides get the first opportunity in the spotlight.

xThe Northern Hemisphere teams will look to sharpen up on their game plans, test out combinations and look to see who to cut from their World Cup plans.

With England hosting the global showpiece this year, the onus is on the Northern Hemisphere sides to fully challenge and grab the opportunity of a World Cup on their turf.

The conditions, referees and schedule seems to favour them.

The Six Nations in 2014 saw a tournament only decided on the final day – with three teams still able to win it. Eventually Ireland won it, a perfect swan song for arguably the greatest No.13 in the modern era – Brian O’Driscoll.

England won the triple crown, beating all the other Home Nations, but failed to win the Six Nations. Italy was also in the record books for the most tackles in a Test match as they made 208!

What do we expect in the 2015 edition of the Six Nations?

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Ryan Wilson

Ryan Wilson

Glasgow Warriors forward Ryan Wilson has been suspended by the Scottish Rugby Union after being fined at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday for assaulting two men, including Ally Maclay of Glasgow Hawks, in a takeaway shop in the west end of the city in October 2013.

His co-accused Warriors team-mates, Ryan Grant and Rory Hughes, were cleared.

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Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown and Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter (right)

Kelly Brown is determined to work his way back into the Scotland squad after being overlooked for the Six Nations.

The 32-year-old former captain failed to make Vern Cotter’s 32-man pool but is convinced he can still add to his 64 caps.

“It’s clearly disappointing, but selection is a funny thing,” Brown said.

“I want to play for Scotland and I certainly feel I can play for Scotland. I don’t feel over the hill yet.”

Saracens flanker Brown began last season’s Six Nations campaign as captain, although he was dropped later in the tournament. Since then Cotter has replaced Scott Johnson as head coach and Brown believes he has plenty still to offer, with the World Cup later in the year.

Brown has played once under Cotter, in a 19-17 win over Canada in June, but was not selected for the Autumn internationals.

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Sean Maitland

Sean Maitland

Scotland international Sean Maitland will join London Irish next season.

Maitland, who signed for the Warriors in October 2012, has made 38 appearances for the club and has scored 11 tries during his spell in Glasgow.

The 26-year-old winger has 15 caps and 2 tries for Scotland.

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “Sean has played a big role at the club over the last 3 years and we wish him all the best when he leaves at the end of the season.

“There is still a lot of rugby to be played between now and then and I’m sure he’ll want to leave the club on a high in the summer.”

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ScotlandThe Scotland Women squad for the 2015 RBS 6 Nations includes a mix of experience and relatively newer faces, with a number of players having worked their way through the age grades and progressed from Scotland Women Under 20.

Worcester prop Tracy Balmer captains the squad again, lining up in the front row alongside 71-times capped Heather Lockhart while back row Rachael Cook – who hails from Larbert Academy and was part of the Scotland Women under-20 side who defeated Finland two years ago – will be looking to add to her five caps won last season.

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ScotlandHugh Blake has become the latest player to join the Kilted Kiwi brigade, joining his fellow countrymen Blair Cowan and Sean Maitland in the Scotland squad. It came as a big surprise to see Blake’s name on the team sheet as the Junior All Black and Highlander, now getting his first call up to a Scotland squad, only joined Edinburgh in December last year.

He played in an ‘A’ team fixture for Edinburgh against Glasgow Warriors on 22 December and had to leave the field injured, suffering from concussion following a knock to his head which knocked him out for a bit. Flanker Blake (1.87m and 102kg) has yet to appear for the senior Edinburgh team and what makes his inclusion even more baffling is that he was introduced as being recruited for a trial period on his arrival in Edinburgh.

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Duncan Weir

Duncan Weir

Duncan Weir has been ruled out of this year’s Six Nations tournament with the 23-year-old set to undergo surgery on his arm.

The Glasgow Warriors flyhalf, who gave Scotland a last-gasp victory over Italy in last year’s competition, took a knock on his arm during the 1872 Cup clash with Edinburgh at Scotstoun last month, with subsequent examination showing that he had severely damaged his bicep.

Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said that the injury suggested that Weir would be out of international action for the next three months.

Townsend added: “I would like to think it won’t be the end of his season, but I think it rules out the Six Nations.

“With a bicep injury you are talking months rather than weeks.”

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Commonwealth Games 2014The rugby year has not pegged out just yet but, even before the first of the thunderous 1872 Cup clashes between Glasgow and Edinburgh, the sport seems to have lapsed into reflective mode.

So, too, your correspondent, croaking towards 2014’s finishing line in a clapped-out but generally contented frame of mind. So when the stockings have been hung, I shall allow myself a few moments of rheumy-eyed and entirely random reflection on what made this twelve-month memorable .

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LeithWith the festive season in full swing we bring you a tale about a rugby club – Leith RFC- who are standing up for what they believe is right and doing their bit for their community. Leith RFC are from a coastal village in the east of Scotland, just north of Edinburgh, who play in the BT East Regional League Division 2. In a statement released by the players on Friday they confirm they are going ahead and honouring a commitment they have made even if it will cost them from a rugby point of view, as they face a points deduction in their league.

Leith Rugby club are supporting Bethany Christian Trust’s Caring Christmas Tree Project, which raises money for Edinburgh’s Winter Care Shelter, giving homeless people in our community an opportunity to come in from the cold this Christmas. As well as promoting the project, we the playing squad volunteered to sell Christmas trees pre-ordered from the Caring Christmas tree website, at Ocean Terminal this Saturday 20th December, the last shopping Saturday before Christmas.

Unfortunately due to inclement weather, our fixture with Forrester RFC was postponed last weekend (13th), and rescheduled for this coming Saturday (20th), one of the standby dates in East League 2. It was, and is our error as a club that we did not initiate a dispensation request at the point of arranging to volunteer on the 20th, it being an published standby date for postponed fixtures. Our request for dispensation, made on Monday was rejected by the East Region Championship Committee, and we have been instructed to fulfil the fixture against possible sanction, normally a 2-point deduction, should we refuse.

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Josh Strauss & Leone Nakarawa

Josh Strauss and Leone Nakarawa

Glasgow Warriors have received a major boost ahead of Sunday’s European Rugby Champions Cup match against Toulouse, with the news that Josh Strauss and Leone Nakarawa have signed new deals with the club.

Both players have signed two-year contracts, keeping them at Scotstoun until at least May 2017 and have committed their futures to the club just a week after Stuart Hogg and Lee Jones penned deals for the same length of time.

South African-born Strauss arrived in Glasgow in September 2012 and the 28-year-old has made 56 appearances for the Guinness PRO12 side. He has scored six tries and has captained the team.

The powerful No 8 has featured regularly for the Warriors and will become eligible to play for Scotland in September 2015.

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End Of Year ToursOnce again the four Rugby Championship teams have been and gone but this time they did not have it all their own way on their annual visit to the British Isles as it ended five wins apiece from the 10 Tests.

Ireland beat both South Africa and Australia, Wales downed the former and England the latter, and Scotland defeated Argentina.

Admittedly, the Pumas are not part of rugby union’s traditional southern hemisphere big three, and the incomparable All Blacks sailed through their Tests unbeaten, but even discounting the Scottish win over Argentina the matches against the three giants from the south only ended 5-4 to the visitors.

Former England and Lions great Jeremy Guscott has been out and about  during November and here he selects a XV for both the home nations and the Rugby Championship sides.

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Gilbert Rugby BallOnly one more Internatonal Test to be played today, that between Georgia vs Japan at 17:00 SA Time and Georgian Time, the rest of the results are in already!

Some surprising results all around, with the Italian Azzurri holding the Springboks to a limited win, Ireland narrowly beating the Wallabies, Wales containing the All Blacks untill the 69th minute before letting in 3 quick tries and France falling to a spirited Argentinian Pumas side.

The rest of the results, well they are pure wall decorations, for want of a better expletive.

The Weekend’s International Results are as follows:

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ScotlandHead coach Vern Cotter has made four injury-enforced changes to the starting Scotland team that will play Tonga in this Saturday’s historic viagogo Autumn Test match at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock (kick-off 14:30 BST & GMT, 16:30 SA Time).

The national team are continuing their trend of taking international rugby to pastures new in a globally ground-breaking fixture, as an international involving a Tier One country is held on an entirely artificial pitch for the first time.

The team’s alterations are split evenly between the forwards and backs, with tight-head prop Geoff Cross and number 8 Johnnie Beattie stepping into the pack for Euan Murray and Adam Ashe, who miss out through thigh and neck injuries respectively.

In the backs, 90-cap Glasgow Warrior Sean Lamont, who came on in the 13th minute against New Zealand as an injury replacement for club-mate Mark Bennett (hamstring), retains his place in midfield.

The final change sees Edinburgh Rugby’s free-scoring winger Tim Visser set to make his first appearance since the summer tour in place of injured Warrior Sean Maitland (hamstring).

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Omar Mouneimne

Omar Mouneimne

Edinburgh confirmed on Tuesday that due to personal reasons Omar Mouneimne has had to leave the Pro12 outfit to return to South Africa.

“We are sorry that Omar has had to return to South Africa to deal with some personal issues,” Edinburgh coaching boss Alan Solomons said.

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Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett

The Warriors have confirmed that Mark Bennett will be out for in the region of 12 weeks with a hamstring injury.

The centre, who was injured during Scotland’s defeat to New Zealand on Saturday, was assessed at Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow.

He does not require surgery and will now undergo a period of rehabiitation.

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ScotlandPrior to the test match between Scotland and the New Zealand All Blacks we featured a piece which suggested that we would like to see wholesale changes to Scotland’s team to face Tonga this coming Saturday. In short the reasoning was that in picking a team with as many players who ply their trade outside Scotland as the two professional teams under Scottish Rugby Union’s control would be aided in their PRO12 efforts, with Glasgow Warriors being the main benefactor. Remember Glasgow Warriors play against Welsh team Llanelli Scarlets in the Guinness PRO12 on Friday night while Edinburgh host Cardiff Blues on Sunday.

There would also be the benefit of  head coach Vern Cotter and his coaching team being able to work a bit more with exiles and assess their abilities in the heat of battle in the Test match, bearing in mind that the last Test match of Scotland’s summer tour (June Internationals) was played outside the international window, so he didn’t have the chance to play any of the non Scotland based players then.

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Steve Hansen

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had no regrets about risking defeat against Scotland by fielding an experimental young side at Murrayfield, insisting that the close call of a contest that ended in a 24-16 victory for the reigning world champions was “a perfect game”.

New Zealand have never lost to Scotland but the hosts were scenting an historic victory as they entered the final 10 minutes just 17-16 down against an All Black side featuring 13 changes in personnel from the team that started the 24-21 win against England at Twickenham seven days previously.

It took a 74th minute try from Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush and a conversion by Colin Slade, who started on the right wing but switched to the familiar realm of flyhalf after the 56th minute substitution of Dan Carter, to make victory secure against a spirited Scotland side.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter was unimpressed by his scratchy return in the number 10 shirt against Scotland but grateful just to get through the 24-16 win unscathed.

Starting at flyhalf for the first time in a year after a season blighted by a broken leg, Carter was well below his best at Murrayfield, struggling with handling errors particularly in the opening exchanges before being replaced shortly after halftime.

“That first 20 (minutes) was pretty scratchy and there were a lot of mistakes from me personally which, if I get another chance, I’ll have to improve,” Carter told reporters.

“My option-taking probably wasn’t the best at times. But I was pretty pleased to be back out there playing again and I felt as the game went on I grew in confidence.”

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ScotlandScotland’s team for Saturday’s test at BT Murrayfield has been announced and no doubt the players and coaching staff will be completely focussed on this match. After all, there is a team from a country called New Zealand who play in black who are in town. However, looking beyond this test would like to discuss the match day squad that would preferably be doing duty at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock, against Tonga next weekend. Rugby Park is the home of Kilmarnock football team, yes that can be confusing but that is not the topic of the this piece.

Scotland’s head coach Vern Cotter has selected the same starting XV that beat Argentina to face the All Blacks , one wonders when last a Scotland coach picked the same XV for consecutive matches. For Tonga though I would suggest wholesale changes to the team for a variety of reasons, the main one being – Glasgow Warriors.

The Scottish Rugby Union (SRU), unlike the case in South Africa, have a direct stake in the two professional clubs here: Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors, and it is with this in mind that my suggestion for the Tonga test is made.

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ScotlandHead coach Vern Cotter has shown faith in his winning Scotland formula for this Saturday’s visit of world champions New Zealand to Murrayfield Stadium.

All 15 men that started the national team’s impressive 41-31 win over Argentina last weekend will once again kick off the second Test.

The reselection means that all five of the match-winning try-scorers – locks Jonny and Richie Gray and back-three trio Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour – all earn a return to the fold.

Man-of-the-match winning captain Greig Laidlaw will once again orchestrate the back division alongside flyhalf Finn Russell and a young midfield partnership of Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett.

Packing down with the secondrow Gray brothers is the experienced front row trio of Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and Euan Murray, and the promising loose forward combo of Rob Harly, Blair Cowan and Adam Ashe.

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All BlacksNew Zealand All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has named his team to play Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday with Dan Carter starting and James Parsons making his international debut.

The matchday 23 for Saturday features 11 players from the 23 which played England last week and Daniel Carter makes his first Test start of the year at first five-eighth in his 102nd Test, with TJ Perenara at halfback.

Two of the locks who played against England, Brodie Retallick (shoulder) and Patrick Tuipulotu (shoulder), were not considered for selection, due to injury.

As a result, lock Dominic Bird, who, like Parsons, was called into the All Blacks as injury cover, will start, with Luke Romano coming off the bench. Loose forward Jerome Kaino (knee) was also not considered for selection.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

New Zealand flyhalf Daniel Carter is expected to return to the match day squad for their clash with Scotland on Saturday as he continues to work his way back from a broken leg.

Carter was the highest profile water boy in world rugby last Saturday when the All Blacks beat England 24-21 at Twickenham. The 32-year-old missed out on a place in the playing squad, ostensibly because coach Steve Hansen felt he had not played enough rugby.

Carter has barely played this year after taking a six-month sabbatical and breaking his leg in the Super Rugby final in August.

He came off the bench for 30 minutes against the United States on November 1 and assistant All Blacks coach Ian Foster said he would now get more playing time in their final two matches against Scotland on Saturday and Wales on November 22.

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ScotlandDominate the collisions and get some big hits in at the tackle. That is Scotland’s recipe for success against New Zealand at Murrayfield on Saturday.

There is an air of confidence in the Scottish camp, following their 41-31 demolition of Argentina last week – a scoreline skewed by two late tries from the Pumas.

New Zealander Vern Cotter’s arrival as coach in Edinburgh has contributed to the country once called Caledonia by the Romans and also referred to as Alba – while they, of course, referee to it as ‘the greatest country on Earth’.

Last week’s victory over the Pumas, who recently tasted success over the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship, has contributed to their growing confidence.

However, captain Greig Laidlaw admitted there are plenty of work ahead before Saturdays showdown with the All Blacks.

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