Context is everything. For the All Blacks, so long accustomed to being the best team on the planet, 2022 has been an unsatisfactory, even mediocre year.

But, as his own side prepare to face up to the New Zealanders at Murrayfield on Sunday, Scotland’s Chris Harris is well aware that one team’s mediocrity can constitute a level of excellence of which many others can only dream. And for that reason, the centre is convinced that he and his colleagues will have to be at the top of their game if they are to have a chance of recording a first victory over the visitors.

The All Blacks were top of the world rankings from 2010 to 2019, and when their supremacy was challenged, it tended to be only by the Springboks, their long-standing arch-rivals.

This year, however, they were not only knocked off their perch, but also fell down a few more rungs, slipping back to No.5 in the summer after losses to Ireland, Argentina and the South Africans.

That nadir of fifth place provoked a lot of agonised soul-searching in New Zealand, where the All Blacks are a source of national pride to a large portion of the population. It also happens to be the highest position that Scotland have occupied in the rankings.

And, to add a couple of more details to the context in which the two sides will meet at the weekend, the All Blacks have just climbed back up to third after crushing Wales 55-23 in Cardiff last Saturday. Scotland, who have lost to Australia then defeated Fiji over the past two weeks, are eighth.

It is no surprise, then, that Harris, who played in the unconvincing 28-12 win over the Fijians, believes that the rumours of New Zealand’s demise this summer were exaggerated.

“It would be a bit naive to write the All Blacks off, especially after them putting 50 points on Wales last week,” the Gloucester centre said. “If we don’t turn up on the day it will be a pretty hard day at the office.

“I expect it will be a pretty confident version of the All Blacks that will be turning up at Murrayfield. They’ll probably have seen us play against Fiji, which wasn’t our best performance. So they’ll be pretty confident that they can come here and do a job. But we’re not going to let that happen.

“We need to raise everything,” he continued when asked what Scotland must do to ensure that New Zealand cannot simply turn up for a regular day at the office and leave with another win in the bag.

“We got beat against Australia although we did enough to probably win. The first half against Fiji was pretty poor but we were much better in the second half.

“It has been inconsistent. And we have to ramp up our intensity and our energy to stand a chance against the All Blacks.”

Now 31, Harris made his Scotland debut against Samoa in 2017, a week before the national team’s last encounter with New Zealand. He did not play in that 22-17 defeat, and has waited a long time to get to grips with the All Blacks again.

“Since getting involved with Scotland it’s the one fixture I’ve wanted to play that I’ve missed out on. It obviously doesn’t happen very often, and the [2020] summer tour when we were meant to play them got cancelled because of Covid. So I was gutted not to go away then.

“I’m really excited now to play against the All Blacks. I think they’re the only top-tier nation I’ve not played against. It’s a challenge I’m excited about, because I want to test myself and see how I go against some of the best players in the world.”

Harris could be playing alongside Blair Kinghorn on Sunday, and has seen the Edinburgh man mature considerably in his new position of stand-off since moving from full-back.

“He’s come on a lot. You can see the changes in his game, on the management side of things – and his defence in the front line has come on massively as well. He’s a quality player and I’m sure he’ll do well.”

The centre has also worked a lot with Finn Russell, who was left out of Gregor Townsend’s squad for the Autumn Nations Series before Adam Hastings’ injury led to his recall at the start of this week. But he has slotted in as if he had never been away, according to Harris.

“Was I surprised he wasn’t picked? Maybe a little bit. But that’s not my decision to make, so you just have to get on with it really.

“He’s no different to what he has been in previous camps – pretty chilled around the place. But when it comes to training he’s on it and makes things happen.”