Scotland will look to continue their good form of 2021 against a Wallabies side missing key personnel and smarting from a wretched defeat on their last visit to Murrayfield
Scotland v Australia Preview – Autumn Internationals
Can Scotland now look Australia squarely in the eye? If you wanted to build a case for a home victory at Murrayfield on Sunday (2.15pm), there’s plenty of ammunition.
The Scottish back-line contains five Test Lions from this year’s tour in Stuart Hogg, Ali Price, Finn Russell, Duhan van der Merwe and Chris Harris. The visitors are lacking Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi, central figures in Australia’s impressive form in the Rugby Championship.
There’s a belief that the Wallabies may struggle to cope with the double threat of Hamish Watson (another Lion) and Jamie Ritchie at the breakdown, that in the tactical kicking stakes Hogg and Russell’s exploitation of the 50:22 law will give them an edge.
Where is the Wallaby rock at the back, a Chris Latham or a Matt Burke? Andrew Kellaway has been scoring tries for fun but he has never started a Test at full-back, as he will this weekend.
The fact the Scots destroyed the Aussies 53-24 on their previous visit in 2017, which itself backed up a famous win in Sydney earlier the same year, has helped to erode any sense of inferiority in the Scottish ranks.
This is one narrative. It’s a dangerous one for it underestimates the calibre of one of the strongest Wallabies packs in years. French-based players Will Skelton and Rory Arnold are formidable operators in the Top 14 and there is no finer warrior in the world game than their captain Michael Hooper.
Taniela Tupou, who came on for his Test debut in that 2017 humiliation after Sekope Kepu was sent off, is a fearsome ball-carrier with vengeance on his mind. Matt Fagerson is a terrific No 8 for Scotland but he will get no change out of his adversary, Rob Valetini.
The match marks the 72nd and final International for referee Romain Poite. The popular Frenchman opened his account with a 2007 Rugby World Cup qualifier between Morocco and Namibia. He now sits third on the all-time list of Test-match appearances behind Nigel Owens (100) and Wayne Barnes (96).
Joël Jutge, World Rugby’s high performance 15s match officials manager, said: “Romain has been a dedicated member of the officials team for more than 15 years and a superb servant to international match officiating. I thank him for his contribution, both as a match official and mentor to young referees.” Poite will continue to officiate at domestic and European level.
Scotland, anxious to prove they stand shoulder to shoulder with the best in Europe, will hope to mark Poite’s farewell with a victory. Away wins over England and France this year showed the huge promise that exists in Gregor Townsend’s squad.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has many friends in Scotland, a legacy of his time in charge of Glasgow, but he must be sent packing. Scotland, with all their Lions and confidence and attacking brio, must deliver again. That is the demand that must be met.
What’s the big Scotland v Australia team news?
Scotland are fortified by their Premiership and Top 14-based contingent, with a third of their match-day squad having been unavailable to them last weekend.
The team features six British & Irish Lions, all bar one of them – Hamish Watson – lining up in the back division. Another Lion, loosehead Rory Sutherland, is absent after an abdomen injury sustained playing for Worcester. Pierre Schoeman wins a second cap in the front row.
Schoeman’s selection apart, it’s the same XV that ended this year’s Guinness Six Nations with that historic win against France in Paris.
Potential Test debuts loom for two England-based players in Sale Sharks hooker Ewan Ashman and Bath back-row Josh Bayliss. Edinburgh’s Jamie Hodgson is also on the bench after winning his first cap against Tonga last week.
Wing Kyle Steyn, fresh from his Man of the Match performance against the Tongans, is another who can expect to play a role deeper into the match.
Meanwhile, Australia are without Cooper, Kerevi and Sean McMahon as they decided, controversially, to stay with their Japanese clubs.
Experienced trio Arnold, Skelton and Kurtley Beale will all make their return to the Wallabies, the latter two off a powerful-looking bench. Former Saracens lock Skelton last played for his country in 2016.
Queensland Reds playmaker James O’Connor will wear the ten jersey for the first time this year, partnering former Exeter Chief Nic White at half-back. The duo play their first Tests in the UK since 2011 and 2014 respectively.
Injury to Reece Hodge sees Kellaway earn his first Wallabies start in the full-back jersey, with wingers Tom Wright and Jordan Petaia in line for their first spring tour Tests.
The midfield remains unchanged from the one that defeated Japan a fortnight ago, with Hunter Paisami and Len Ikitau at inside- and outside-centre respectively.
Livewire Tate McDermott will play his first Test in the northern hemisphere while Izaia Perese is set to become Wallaby No 948, named as a potential debutant in the 23 jersey.
What have the coaches said?
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend: “Defensively we’ll have to be at our very best. Australia have shown they’re a good attacking side. They’ve won five Test matches in a row and beaten the world champions twice, the No 1 team in the world.
“While there were several positives to take from the win against Tonga, we face a very different opponent in Australia. They’re coming into this fixture full of confidence, so we will need to bring focus, accuracy and aggression for the full 80 minutes.
“We’ve been able to select an experienced team with the availability of our players outside of Scotland and aim to use the remaining Autumn Nations Series fixtures to build our game through improving week on week.
“This is a great opportunity to test ourselves against an in-form side who are also one of the leading teams in world rugby.”
Australia head coach Dave Rennie: “To be able to call on the experience and quality of players like Rory, Kurtley and Will is really valuable for our group.
“Those three guys have merged with the group seamlessly, worked hard on their detail this week and are super excited to earn another opportunity to represent their country.
‘Izzy is someone who’s been on our radar for a little while now and has been impressive in training and deserves his chance.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of players in the Scotland set-up and we’ve prepared knowing how tough a challenge it’s going to be at Murrayfield on Sunday.”
Any interesting stats?
- Scotland have averaged 10.5 clean breaks per game in 2021 – only New Zealand (19.1) among Tier One teams have fared better
- Scotland have the best tackle success rate (92%) of any Tier One team this year
- Australia are on a five-match winning run – their best sequence since winning seven in a row from September to October 2015
- Michael Hooper has won 13 turnovers in Test rugby in 2021 – the most by any player from a Tier One nation
- The countries have played each other on 32 occasions, the first encounter being in 1927. The Wallabies have won 21 matches to Scotland’s 11
- Scotland have won four of their last seven Tests against Australia
- Of those to make more than three appearances for a Tier One nation in 2021, just five have averaged four or more defenders beaten per game – and Scottish trio Duhan van der Merwe (6.2), Darcy Graham (4.5) and Stuart Hogg (4.0) are in that top five
What time is kick-off and is Scotland v Australia on TV?
The match will kick-off at 2.15pm on Sunday 7 November. Referee Romain Poite, assistants Matthew Carley and AJ Jacobs, and TMO Marius Jonker will take charge of the match.
What are the line-ups?
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Oli Kebble, 19 Jamie Hodgson, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 George Horne, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Kyle Steyn.
Australia: Andrew Kellaway; Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia; James O’Connor, Nic White; James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Rob Leota, Michael Hooper (capt), Rob Valetini.
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Izaia Perese.
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