New Zealand wrap (Mon) brings you the latest news from New Zealand’s year end tour.

Beatable Blacks

The British press were not impressed by the All Blacks’ lacklustre victory over the Wallabies in Hong Kong.

All the major British papers claimed the All Blacks could be defeated by one of their northern opponents, but admitted it would take a mammoth performance.

“There were signs of excellence, there were moments of frailty,” wrote former Wales No 8 Eddie Butler in The Observer. “There were aspects to worry Europe and elements to give the old continent grounds for optimism.

“There was nothing on show at the Hong Kong stadium yesterday to terrify the European teams that these two Bledisloe Cup giants will meet in the next month, although there was enough to show that any victory will be hard-won,” Stephen Jones wrote in the Sunday Times.

“Yet it was typical of New Zealand that they should sort themselves in the dressing-room. There was far more purpose and far less speculation about them after the break.”

Jones said the All Blacks’ opponents will have noted the “lack of authority” in the scrum after Andrew Hore’s departure and “the series of speculative passes which often cost them the ball.”

Scots to field second string

Scotland head coach Frank Hadden may not send out his strongest team to face the All Blacks on Saturday.

Speculation is rife that Hadden will field a weakened side against New Zealand in the belief that the Springboks provide a more realistic opportunity for victory when they visit a week later.

Regardless of his views Hadden’s preparations have been compromised in any case after key players were embroiled in the ongoing club versus country debate.

“If they go 80 minutes and then have to play the All Blacks six days later, we have to be mindful as selectors that these guys are not going to be firing on all cylinders in the early part of the week, when at the same time we have a minimum amount of preparation time and we have to maximise it as best we can,” Hadden told The Scotsman newspaper.

“It’s quite sad we’re not just sitting here saying ‘who are the best players to play against New Zealand?’ But we do have to consider all these things – how much game time a guy has this weekend, what state he is in, whether he played Friday, Saturday or today, and there will be some guys where we have to work whether he will be able to cope with the massive demands we will be putting on them from tomorrow onwards.”

More to follow…