Redemption the name of the game
Sat, 23 Nov 2013 08:40
They are not in disarray
Both Scotland and Australia go into Saturday's Test match at Murrayfield with something to prove, albeit for different reasons.
The Scots are out to banish the memory of their 28-0 mauling at the hands of South Africa in Edinburgh last weekend.
Australia want to salvage their European tour after a nightmare week that saw half the squad implicated in an alcohol-fuelled fiasco that preceded their match against Ireland in Dublin.
Victory for either side will help put a rosier shine for them on the November series of test matches.
Defeat will consign them to a proverbial long 'winter of discontent'.
Scotland's reaction to the Springboks' drubbing has been to ditch fly-half Ruaridh Jackson in favour of Duncan Weir and, more surprisingly, to axe star lock Richie Gray, with Grant Gilchrist, the 23-year-old Edinburgh second-rower who will win his fourth cap, stepping up alongside Jim Hamilton, who will win his 50th.
Former skipper Kelly Brown of Saracens returns to the back row saying he is refreshed after being rested, and he will line up with David Denton staying at No.8 and Johnnie Beattie taking over from John Barclay on the openside.
Interim coach Scott Johnson scoffed at suggestions that his side would be facing a Wallabies' team in disarray following the drinking session that saw six players hit with a one-match suspension and the loss of centres Tevita Kuridrani, for an illegal tackle against the Irish, and Matt Toomua, through injury.
"They are not in disarray because I tell you that whoever they play will be a skilful rugby player. Australia are starting to assemble a really good side," he said.
Asked whether he agreed with the decision of Australian coach Ewen McKenzie to ban players for a night out drinking, he replied: "I'm not sitting on judgement on other people's issues. Everyone's job is easy until you have to do it.
"That's their issue, I've got enough on my plate already before worrying about theirs."
McKenzie was at odds to play down the consequences of last week's dramas for his squad, saying that the sanctions and injury situation had opened up doors for others to step forward and stake their claims.
His team-sheet shows eight changes, including four to the starting line-up, from the side that trounced Ireland 31-15, with four tries to nil.
He has opted for a new midfield pairing of inside centre Mike Harris and outside centre Christian Leali'ifano, along with a new wing pairing of Joe Tomane and Chris Feauai-Sautia.
For Leali'ifano and Tomane this match is their first in the starting team since they suffered injuries in Australia's 54-17 victory over Argentina during the Rugby Championship in October.
Feauai-Sautia also made his Test debut during that tournament against South Africa and will now receive his second cap, while Harris, who has eight caps, gets his first start this year.
An additional four changes have been made to the bench with prop Ben Alexander, back row forward Ben McCalman and versatile backs Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley all coming into the matchday squad.
McKenzie said he was expecting his squad to make the most of their opportunities following the turmoil of the week.
"We've made some difficult selection decisions this week and now I'll be looking to see how those individuals with an opportunity respond to the challenge," McKenzie said.
"All tour I've been impressed by the competition we've been able to create in a number of positions. Now, some of those guys get a chance to impress in new roles this week."
McKenzie also said his squad would be determined to turn the tables on Scotland after losing their past two matches in 2009 (9-8) and 2012 (9-6).
"Our main focus right now is to get our own backyard in order and start building momentum by winning consecutive games," he said.
"We took a step forward last week by scoring our first back-to-back win of the year, but now it's about getting three in a row."
|South African news|
|» Du Plessis, Louw out for Pumas|
|» Jean's appetite is insatiable|
|» No need for mourning in Bok country|
|» Meyer: Bring on the World Cup|
|» Hansen: Where the game was won|