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Winning the only incentive for Scotland

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Sportal.co.nz     11 Nov 2010     Getty Images

The 29-year-old Edinburgh halfback will skipper Scotland for the 14th time in his 65th Test, despite never having started an international under Andy Robinson, who became head coach in the summer of 2009.

Scotland have played New Zealand in 27 Tests since 1905 and are yet to beat the All Blacks, but Blair believes his team can make history.

"Every Test match you go into, you go in to win," Blair, who has made five substitute appearances under Robinson, told Press Association Sport.

"It's the same against New Zealand. They are a fantastic side, we're going to have to work really hard at our game to put ourselves into that position, but I don't think there's any more incentive needed.

"We believe as a squad that if we can match the All Blacks' skill and intensity, that, with the Murrayfield crowd behind us, it can put us into a position where we can win a Test match against New Zealand."

Robinson led Scotland to victory over Australia for the first time in 27 years 12 months ago, while his side are unbeaten in the last four Tests - a draw with England and victory over Ireland in the Six Nations, plus a first southern hemisphere series success, a 2-0 win over Argentina in June.

Blair's inclusion was as one of five changes to the starting XV from the series-clinching win over the Pumas on June 19 and the captain hopes Scotland can carry the momentum from their strong run into Saturday's encounter.

"As a squad we believe in our talent and ability," he added.

"The belief comes from a lot of different things - how you're training, how games have gone, form going into the Test matches - we've just got to put all of those things together on Saturday."

Rory Lawson, who played in the series win in Argentina, was yesterday named on the bench as Blair's understudy, but 24 hours on the Gloucester No.9 was forced to withdraw with a hand injury suffered playing for his club.

Uncapped Edinburgh No.9 Greig Laidlaw, nephew of former Scotland and British and Irish Lions halfback Roy Laidlaw, has been called up to the replacements' bench.

With Glasgow Warriors halfback Chris Cusiter out injured, Scotland have a wealth of options at number nine and Blair is determined to prove his worth to the team after having limited opportunities in Robinson's tenure so far.

Blair said: "We've had a couple of injuries at scrum-half, but I've been really confident with how I've been playing.

"It is my first start under Andy Robinson, but I've been injured - there have been a number of factors that have come into it.

"At the moment this is my opportunity and you've just got to take it.

"I'm just delighted to get this opportunity now to hopefully show what I can do in the Scotland number nine shirt again and leading the guys out at Murrayfield."

Blair's distribution and quick-thinking will come under pressure from the All Blacks on Saturday.

He is fully aware the world's No.1-ranked team represent a formidable challenge and that quick ball is a must.

He said: "They won't put as many people into the breakdown, they'll just challenge with the tackler and probably one other guy, so we've got to be sharp at getting the ball away from the breakdown and challenging the All Black back line."

If a fresh impetus is required at halfback on Saturday, Blair could make way for Edinburgh team-mate Laidlaw.

The 25-year-old has been training all week, with Lawson's contribution limited due to his hand injury, and his call-up to the matchday 22 was confirmed on Wednesday morning.

It was not a total surprise.

Laidlaw told Press Association Sport: "I had an inkling, but it was just confirmed this morning.

"I'm absolutely delighted. It's a great honour."

Laidlaw's uncle was a member of the last Scotland team to avoid defeat against the All Blacks, when Scotland earned a 25-25 draw at Murrayfield in 1983.

"If we could emulate that the whole country would be delighted," added Laidlaw.

"The Scotland team we've got at the minute I think we can do that and all the boys in the squad believe we can."