Preview: Australia v Scotland
Mon, 04 Jun 2012 09:56
They'll be hungry and will sense the opportunity
The Wallabies will be heavy favourites against Scotland in their season opener in Newcastle on Tuesday, but wary of a repeat of one of their blackest days against this year's Six Nations wooden-spooners in their last encounter.
The Scots pulled off a mighty 9-8 upset at Murrayfield in November 2009 to end a 16-game losing run against the Wallabies in a match described by some critics as Australia's worst defeat of the professional (post-1995) era.
The Wallabies, ranked second in the world, have chosen far from their best lineup to face 12-ranked Scotland as they manage their playing resources ahead of Saturday's first of three Tests against Six Nations Grand Slam champions Wales in Brisbane.
Only scrumhalf Will Genia and hooker Stephen Moore remain from the Wallabies' starting XV in that 2009 Edinburgh defeat.
Flank David Pocock will lead the Wallabies for the first time in a team containing five uncapped players - Mike Harris at inside-centre, wing Joe Tomane, fullback Luke Morahan, loose forward Dave Dennis and tight-head prop Dan Palmer.
Coach Robbie Deans has chosen nine of his World Cup squad in the starting XV with a further six who played in last year's New Zealand tournament among the replacements.
There is no place for mercurial flyhalf Quade Cooper, who Deans considers has not had enough game time since his comeback from a serious knee injury suffered at the World Cup.
Deans said Berrick Barnes's experience at No.10, where he has played recently for the NSW Waratahs, along with his Wallaby background, would be critical assets for the Australian side given the short preparation time.
Barnes last played flyhalf for the Wallabies during the 21-18 win in the third-place play-off against Wales at last year's World Cup, taking over after Cooper was forced off early with ruptured knee ligaments.
Deans is expecting the Scots to come at the Wallabies and test out their forwards in the set-pieces as they defend the Hopetoun Cup.
"They'll be hungry and will sense the opportunity, striking us first up on a limited preparation," Deans said.
"A feature of the Scottish team under Andy Robinson is that they are very well organised. The Scottish teams of my experience have always been extremely physical in their approach, so they will be very direct and come right at us."
Scotland have made six changes and will give Ryan Grant, the Glasgow Warriors loosehead prop, his first cap against the Wallabies.
Edinburgh centre Matt Scott will have his first start with two other uncapped players among the replacements, Edinburgh wing/fullback Tom Brown and Tom Ryder, the Glasgow Warriors lock.
"We were all very disappointed by the results in the Six Nations and this tour is about our strong collective determination to put that right, play with confidence and win back pride," Robinson said.
"When we last played Australia three years ago, it was one of the most courageous performances of scramble defence I have ever seen.
"Four times Australia were over our line only to be held up and it will require that uncompromising resolve if we are to repeat that success."
It is 30 years since Scotland's last success in Australia, at Brisbane's Ballymore stadium in 1982, and overall the Wallabies lead 18 wins to eight.
It will be the first time Newcastle's Hunter Stadium, 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Sydney, has hosted a rugby union Test match.
Players to watch:
For Australia: You know that Nathan Sharpe is retiring at the end of the year, so this June is truly his last fling on the international stage. Then there are fringe players like Luke Morahan, Joe Tomane, Anthony Fainga'a, Mike Harris, Dave Dennis and Sitaleki Timani who can put their hands up for regular spots ahead of the series against Wales.
For Scotland: Flyhalf has been an issue for the Scots for some time now, so Greig Laidlaw will be in the spotlight, while Mike Blair has not always covered himself in glory and gets a chance to show he deserves to be the premier No.9. Richie Gray, one of the most dynamic second row forwards in the world, is always worth watching, while Ross Ford certainly leads from the front and will have a vital role - both as captain and hooker.
Head to head: You don't have to look much further than Will Genia (Australia) versus Mike Blair (Scotland), the creative genius versus the structured master. Much of how the game will evolve will centre around these two.
2009: Scotland won 9-8, Edinburgh
2006: Australia won 42-15, Edinburgh
2004: Australia won 31-17, Glasgow
2004: Australia won 31-14, Edinburgh
2004: Australia won 34-13, Sydney
2004: Australia won 35-15, Melbourne
2003: Australia won 33-16, Brisbane (World Cup quarterfinal)
2000: Australia won 30-9, Edinburgh
1998: Australia won 33-11, Brisbane
1998: Australia won 45-3, Sydney
Prediction: You won't find a bookie anywhere in the world that will make Scotland favourites, and with good reason too. Australia, even though they are fielding a host of fringe players, still look to have too much fire power for the visitors. Australia to win by 10 to 15 points.
Australia: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Anthony Fainga'a, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 David Pocock (captain), 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Michael Hooper, 20 Nick Phipps, 21 Pat McCabe, 22 Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Joe Ansbro, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Mike Blair, 8 John Barclay, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Alastair Kellock, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford (captain),1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jon Welsh, 18 Tom Ryder, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Duncan Weir, 22 Tom Brown.
Date: Tuesday, June 5
Venue: Ausgrid Stadium, Newcastle
Kick-off: 19.30 (09.30 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Keith Brown (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)
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