Hogg wary of All Black strength

Allister Hogg admits Scotland's back-row must significantly raise their game at the breakdown if they are to compete with New Zealand's celebrated breakaway trio on Saturday. [more]

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Allister Hogg admits Scotland’s back-row must significantly raise their game at the breakdown if they are to compete with New Zealand’s celebrated breakaway trio on Saturday.

The All Blacks will arrive at Murrayfield looking to complete an historic Grand Slam of the Home Nations after three weeks of compelling rugby.

Pivotal to their success has been the work of Graham Henry’s back row in the ruck area, an aspect of the game at which Scotland struggled during the unconvincing 18-11 victory over Samoa on Sunday.

The physicality of the Samoan forwards gave Hogg, Jason White and Simon Taylor an uncomfortable afternoon – and the Edinburgh man knows the All Blacks will be considerably tougher.

Big-hitting blindside Jerry Collins, rapidly-maturing number eight Rodney So’oialo – immense against England on Saturday – and imperious open-side Richie McCaw have dominated in the loose during their tour of the British Isles.

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Indeed, Hogg is unsure whether he wants to tackle the challenge of arguably the world’s finest player McCaw, missing with a head knock at Twickenham, or have an easier ride against rookie number seven Chris Masoe.

The 22-year-old, who is possibly more comfortable at blindside or number eight rather than on the openside flank, said: "I don’t know how bad McCaw’s head knock was – hopefully it might keep him out another week!

"But having said that it’s why you play, to challenge yourself against someone like that.

"There are pros and cons like anything else but I suppose it would be nice to play against him.

"I’ll just try to do my bit. Jason and Simon know what they are doing so you don’t have to worry about what they’re doing. That’s what’s good about our combination in the back row.

"But we had a better breakdown last week against Argentina and we need to target that during training this week.

"It’s not so much a worry now. I think we’ve realised what the problem was and it was a bit of a wake-up call.

"I don’t think you’ll see the same problem this week. We’ll address it and hopefully it won’t happen again.

"It wasn’t so much a case of not committing enough players to rucks, it’s basically more a need to stay strong over the ball, seal the ball and protect it."

Hogg, who scored his fifth try for Scotland against Samoa following a textbook rolling maul from the forwards, is well aware of the awesome power and pace which he faces on Saturday.

But the versatile back-rower believes Scotland must actually look for physical confrontation with the All Blacks – or face being toyed with.

South Africa demonstrated that a rushing, suffocating defence is the best way to contain Tana Umaga’s men in the Tri-Nations and England did much the same to good effect last Saturday.

Hogg said: "They’re by far and away the best team in the world at the moment. England pushed them close at the weekend and showed what to do against them.

"You need to be pretty physical because obviously that’s their game: they’re big, physical guys and we need to match them.

"We need to get in their faces, put their skills under pressure and hopefully they’ll make mistakes.

"If you sit back off them they’ll run round you. We need to put pressure on them.

"We need to take it to them. They’ve got weaknesses like any other team and we need to exploit those.

"We’ve not analysed them completely as a team yet – that’s what this week will be all about – but we have watched their previous three games."

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