Scotland coach Gregor Townsend is confident his players can iron out the defensive deficiencies which allowed Samoa to score five tries ahead of this weekend’s daunting visit of world champions New Zealand.
Scotland led from the start and won Saturday’s game 44-38, scoring six tries of their own in the opening autumn Test but there were concerning lapses which allowed the Pacific islanders to remain a threat and come within a converted try by the end.
Townsend is almost certain to be without first-choice tighthead WP Nel who suffered a suspected broken arm in the first half. An update is expected today and there are other bumps and bruises, including an injured toe for wing Tommy Seymour.
In Nel’s absence Glasgow’s Zander Fagerson will step in, with Edinburgh’s Simon Berghan, who featured three times off the bench in this year’s Six Nations after making his debut in Paris, covering on the bench.
“We’ve got depth at tighthead,” insisted Townsend. “Disappointed to lose WP. He’s trained very well for us these last weeks. But three tightheads have been playing really well this season, Simon Berghan, and Zander. I thought Zander did really well in the loose [on Saturday]. If WP is out, it’s a position we’ve got really good competition right now.”
Asked what improvements had to be made ahead of the All Blacks match, the coach replied: “We’ve got to make sure we look after ball, that’s not the right phrase… we make best use of ball when we have it.”
New Zealand, who have never lost to Scotland, tuned up with a 38-18 win over France in Paris and there is another XV match between the countries in Lyon tomorrow.
“They’ll be battle hardened,” said Townsend. “They’ve got a big group with them so I’m not sure anyone will play Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday.
“We’ll expect it’ll be their first team that plays against us.
“They’re an excellent side, played a lot of games together over the last three or four months, against top quality opposition. We’re going to be at our very best to beat them.
“We weren’t at our best [against Samoa] but there’s a win, there’s confidence in how we played at certain points of the game.
“We’ve just got to work to make sure we’re better all-around.”