Preview: Australia v Scotland

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 07:57
Large eto nabuli reds 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Eyes will be on Eto Nabuli when he dons the Australia jumper in his first international Test match againts Scotland on Saturday June 17.

Eto Nabuli will complete a fairy-tale journey on Saturday, five years after being talent-spotted while carrying bags as a hotel porter.

Fijian-born Nabuli is Australia's only change from last week's 37-14 win over Fiji, with the Wallabies expecting a tough fixture against the Six Nations team in Sydney.

Nabuli is a fascinating rags-to-riches tale after being discovered by Australian rugby league greats Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns as he lugged their suitcases as a porter at a Fijian hotel in 2012.

"He just had something about him," Johns recalled. "We took him to the park and did some drills with him, had him catching high balls. His hand-eye coordination was unbelievable.

"I am really happy he has got his opportunity for the Wallabies, that is some sort of statement he's made,"

Nabuli went on to play 13 National Rugby League games for St George Illawarra Dragons before switching to the Reds, where he has played 16 Super Rugby matches before being called up by coach Michael Cheika.

"You could do worse than getting those blokes (Fittler and Johns) to go out and talent-scout for you," Cheika quipped this week. "They've obviously got an eye for good talent.

"His improvement from last year to this year with the Reds has been outstanding,"

Nabuli comes in on the left wing for another Fijian-born player, Henry Speight, in the only change.

However, skipper Stephen Moore was again overlooked for Tatafu Polota-Nau, with flank Michael Hooper the on-field captain.

"We have had a number of discussions about that going way back so it hasn't come out of nowhere. Those roles, they're fluid and they evolve over time," said Moore, who has played 118 Tests.

Rugby league convert Karmichael Hunt retains his place at inside centre after his assured debut against Fiji last week.

It will be a distinct step up for the Wallabies, who beat fifth-ranked Scotland by just one point in their previous two meetings and lost to them 9-6 in their last home encounter in 2012.

The Scots beat Wales and Ireland during this year's Six Nations before downing Italy 34-13 in Singapore last weekend.

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend has made eight changes to his starting side, picking an entirely new front row and back three.

"Australia are one of the best teams in the world, so this will be a much tougher challenge than our game last week," Townsend said.

"The Wallabies DNA is about moving the ball and they have always been one of the best attacking teams in the game.

"It's a game that will challenge our players in defence but we'll also have to be very accurate in attack and aim to out-work our opposition.

"There are a few changes this week as we'd planned to give a number of our squad the opportunity to play in the first two games of tour,"

Players to watch:

For Australia: Captain Michael Hooper can be a handful with his ruggedness at the breakdown. The partnership of lock pairing Adam Coleman and Sam Carter could produce a few headaches for Scottish side. Eto Nabuli will want to prove himself in his first match while Israel Folau is always one to watch out for, with his agility and counter attacks from the back.  

For Scotland: Loose head prop Gorden Reid will want to dominate at the scrums. Despite his brother's (Richie Gray) absence, Jonny Gray’s form will be vital at the setpieces. In the backline, centre Alex Dunbar’s skills on attack and defence could be a thorn in the Wallabies’ side.

Head to head: Australia's Bernard Foley against Scotland Finn Russell, flyhalf versus flyhalf, both bring sense and calm to their respective sides, and can orchestrate the game. At the scrums the strong pack forwards of Gorden Reid, Zander Fagerson and Fraser Brown will have the upper hand against the front row of Allan Alaalatoa, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Tom Robertson.  

Recent results:

2016: Australia won 23-22, Murrayfield
2015: Austalia won 35-34, Twickenham
2013: Australia won 21-15, Murrayfield
2012: Scotland won 9-6, Newcastle, Australia
2009: Scotland won 9-8, Murrayfield
2006: Australia won 44-15, Murrayfield
2004: Australia won 31-17, Glasgow

Prediction: The rivalry between Australia and Scotland has matured to highly competitive battle,  with the past fixtures being excruciatingly-tight affairs. Recent results showed the Wallabies edged Scotland by a single point on two occasions, first in 2015 at the Rugby World Cup and in 2016 at the Murrayfield. Australia will win by five points or less.

Teams:

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Reece Hodge.

Scotland: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (captain), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Matt Scott

Date: Saturday, June 17
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 15.00 (06.00 UK time; 05.00 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

Agence France-Presse