All You Need To Know About Scotland v Australia

Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

SCOTLAND v AUSTRALIA, MURRAYFIELD, SATURDAY 25 NOVEMBER.

Kick-off 2.30pm. Live on BBC 1 and BT Sport 2.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Peter Horne, Sean Maitland; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Darryl Marfo, Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, John Barclay©, Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson. Substitutes: Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Zander Fagerson, Ben Toolis, Cornell Du Preez, Henry Pyrgos, Phil Burleigh, Byron McGuigan.

Australia: Kurtley Beale, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Samu Kerevi, Reece Hodge; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Scott Sio, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Blake Enever, Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper©, Sean McMahon. Subs: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tetera Faulkner, Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Tui, Lopeti Timani, Nick Phipps, Karmichael Hunt, Henry Speight.

Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)



RECENT history suggests that this is going to be a very tight match between two sides which have faced each other six times in the last decade and shared the wins right down the middle with three each. A maximum of six points has separated the teams on each occasion, and the aggregate score over that series of matches is just 113:112 in favour of the Scots.

Both teams have faced the All Blacks during the last five weeks and managed to pick holes in their aura of invincibility, although the Australians did manage to clinch a 23-18 win in Brisbane on 21st October while the Scots went tantalising close last weekend but couldn’t quite get over the line – so that, perhaps, indicates that the men in gold and green have an edge.

The Scots do have home advantage but that isn’t necessarily a key factor given that in those last six matches, three were played at Murrayfield and the Scots only managed to win the first back in 2009, while losing in 2013 and 2016.

Scots won the two matches they have played in Australia [6-9 in 2012 and 19-24 last summer] but lost the only one that really mattered at the 2015 World Cup, when Bernard Foley slotted an injury time penalty to clinch a spot in the semi-final of the most important rugby tournament on earth.

Australia have had a tough week, losing 30-6 in horrible conditions and amid controversial circumstances on Saturday, having their head coach Michael Cheika investigated for his comments and conduct during that encounter and then being prevented from using their allocated training pitch on Tuesday because of heavy rainfall.

Cheika was finally let off with a stern warning on Thursday night, but decided to stay away from yesterday’s press conference. It was probably a wise move because after a week of unnecessary fuss off the park it is time for both these team to focus on the real task in hand.



WHAT THEY SAID –

Scotland defence coach Matt Taylor on how this challenge compares with last week’s clash against the All Blacks.

“It’s arguably the best back-line in the world from an attacking point of view. We’ve played each other a number of times and they’ve all been very close games, so we’ve really prepared well this week. We’re really disappointed with the result against New Zealand, but we know how challenging this game against Australia will be – so we’ll do our best with regards to getting up and shutting them down.”

“I think both weeks are really hard. We’re playing the best team in the world, and then the third best team in the world. You play any of the top ten teams and it’s going to be a massive challenge. Australia are very good with their set-piece plays and they beat you with their one-on-one skill very well. There will be plays that we haven’t seen before that they’ll pull out and I guess it means us understanding and being on the same page – making sure that we’re setting up correctly and we’re tackling very well as well. They’ve got some really big guys.”

Australia captain Michael Hooper on former captain Stephen Moore, who will be playing his 129th and last Test match for the Wallabies.

“He’s held in such high regard by all of us and I can speak for the whole squad and players back at home who have played for him. It will be great for us to come out of this weekend with that improvement we’ve talked about and show how far we’ve come. He’s been instrumental as a mentor when he was captain and to leave that mark and the legacy he’s had is fantastic.”

Scotland captain John Barclay on the last two games against the Australians [a narrow loss at Murrayfield just over twelve months ago and a narrow victory in Sydney during the summer]:

“The game in the summer was awesome to play in, a really energetic, fast, physical game. It was very similar to the game in the autumn, almost as if it had just been four halves – we’d gone on and just started again really. I don’t know why, we just seem to create these types of games at the moment.”

Wallaby defence coach Nathan Grey on Australian inconsistency:

“Since the last World Cup, I think 24 players have made their debuts, so things have changed a lot over a short period of time. We have another tomorrow in Taniela Tupou. So, we’ve had mixed results, but when the team is on fire and delivering we are confident in how we can play. It’s a matter of getting players exposed and seeing how they perform at this level.”



THREE KEY CLASHES

Michael Hooper versus John Barclay

One is on the open-side and the other is on the blindside so they are not direct opponents, but the influence of the two captains on their respective teams is very similar. Leaders in both word and deed, they are ferocious competitors on the deck, although Hooper will be wary that his recent record of yellow cards against both Wales and England this Autumn (making him the game’s most sin-binned international player with eight) means that he is going to be under extra scrutiny this week.

With Hamish Watson on the other flank, Barclay has a more than willing accomplice in the battle of the breakdown, so Hooper is going to have to be right on the money in order to ensure that the Scots don’t have it all their own way.

Peter Horne v Samu Kerevi

Alex Dunbar is the type of player you only realise the importance of when he is not there. He was crucial to Scotland’s phenomenal defensive performance against the All Blacks last week, with his speed leading the line-up and power in the tackle setting the tone. Not only that, but he is superb over the ball in the tackle situation, which provides the Scots with either valuable nanoseconds to reorganise their defence or, better still, secures turnover ball from which the likes of Ali Price, Russell and Hogg are so dangerous. But he is concussed this week so Horne takes over the twelve jersey.

The new face in the Scotland starting fifteen is no slouch in defence, but he is not as big and not as aggressive as Dunbar. He provides real value as another ball player in the middle of the park capable of loading the bullets for the team’s dangerous strike runners to do the damage, but he is surrendering 12kgs (almost two stone) to Kerevi, who is one of here Fijian-born players in the Australian three-quarter line.

If Horne gets his alignment wrong like he did in the lead-up to Beauden Barrett’s try last weekend, or he is a bit slow to the mark like he was in the lead-up to Damian Mackenzie’s try, then the Scots could pay a heavy price once again.

Stuart Hogg v Kurtley Beale

If anyone was not entirely convinced before Saturday that Hogg is a player of genuine world class quality then his heroic performance against New Zealand will have left them in absolutely no doubt. He was deployed regularly at second receiver as Scotland aimed to make maximum possible use out of his line-breaking ability. Beale has been used in a similar way by Australia. It will be fascinating to see if the pair cancel each other out, or whether they will spur each other on to ever greater deeds of derring-do.



SCOTLAND’S RECORD AGAINST AUSTRALIA

Played 31 Won 10 Drawn 0 Lost 21

Best results

19 December 1981: Scotland 24 Australia 15

Biggest defeat

13 June 1998: Australia 45 Scotland 3

Six most recent matches

21 November 2009: Scotland 9 Australia 8

5 June 2012: Australia 9 Scotland 6

23 November 2013: Scotland 15 Australia 21

18 October 2015: Scotland 34 Australia 35

12 November 2016: Scotland 22 Australia 23

17 June 2017: Australia 19 Scotland 24



LAST TIME OUT

Having lost the last two matches in the most frustrating and painful of circumstances, Scotland got some sort of revenge with a famous 19-24 victory over the Wallabies on their own patch, secured on the back of heroic defence, deadly finishing and Finn Russell at his irrepressible best.

Scotland grabbed three tries through Duncan Taylor off an interception, Russell off a charge-down and Hamish Watson after a sweeping attack. But they couldn’t sustain that high and with Russell seconded off to New Zealand as part of the ‘Geography Six’ on Warren Gatland’s Lions tour, the team slumped to a dispiriting 27-22 loss to Fiji a week later.

Half-backs Russell and Ali Price are the only survivors in the Scottish backline from that famous result; while in the pack, second-row Jonny Gray and the entire back-row of John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson have survived. Henry Pyrgos benches it again.

Of the starting Australian team in that match, centre Tevita Kuridrani, stand-off Bernard Foley, scrum-half Will Genia and flanker Michael Hooper all retain their starting slot. The back-up front row in June of Scott Sio, Stephen Moore and Sekope Kepu have all been elevated to the starting fifteen this time, with hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau going the other direction. Winger Reece Hodge was on the bench at the start of that last game but is in the run-on fifteen today.

 

About David Barnes 2968 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.