SCOTLAND defence coach Matt Taylor has insisted that the late change in personnel, which sees Peter Horne come in at inside centre for the concussed Alex Dunbar, will not impact the way the team defends against Australia tomorrow afternoon.
Dunbar played a crucial role in leading Scotland’s phenomenal line-speed as they smothered the All Blacks attack last Saturday, and it was only after he sustained that head knock that the tourists managed to get over the try-line – but Taylor says that the promotion of Horne will not change the team’s mind-set.
“Our system is the same no matter who comes in, so it is just about executing the defensive system really well. They’ve got a lot of good plays – some of their plays they’ve used quite a lot and had good success with – so we’ll try to wreck them in this game,” he said.
“You never know what Australia will do because they are really good at pulling out new moves, but we’ve defended pretty well [in training] during the week.”
Horne is no shrinking violet, but he doesn’t offer quite the same physical presence as Dunbar in the middle of the park, which could be crucial against a heavy weight Australian midfield featuring Samu Kerevi and Tevita Kuridrani, both of who have more than a stone and a half in weight advantage. He is, however, more of a ball player than Dunbar so will provide the team with more options in attack.
Uncapped Edinburgh centre Phil Burleigh – who was born and raised in New Zealand but qualifies for Scotland through residency – takes Horne’s place on the bench. He will become the seventh Scotland new cap of the Autumn if he gets on.
There was an asterisk against Dunbar’s name when the team was announced on Wednesday, with his involvement depending on completing a contact session the following day, so this change is not a complete shock. Horne has trained as part of the team this week and is an experienced and intelligent enough player to be fully across the role he is being asked to play.
“They’ve got a really exciting back-line from an attacking point of view. With Kerevi and Kuridrani there they’ve got the two big guys who can batter up, and with [Bernard] Foley and [Kurtley] Beale acting as two receivers they can bring some real width to the game – so it is going to be a challenge, definitely. We’re going to have to tackle well, we’re going to have to have good width, we’re going to have to fill the field and get up and pressure their ballplayers.”
Taylor was asked about the specific threat posed by full-back Beale, and did not hold back – branding the idiosyncratic 28-year-old a key man in ‘arguably the best back-line in the world from an attacking point of view.’
“He adds a lot more width to their game and they use him in a real smart way in that he comes I at 12 and use his passing ability, and in phase play they use him to just bring more width to their game,” the coach explained.
“Him and Foley will pick one side and swing that way to bring that width to their game. So, I think it has just added to their attack.
“And, individually, he’s brilliant. He’s very good with his footwork and his offloading, and that’s right across the board with all of their backs. It’s arguably the best back-line in the world from an attacking point of view.”