PREVIEW: SCOTLAND V AUSTRALIA

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 08:19

NOVEMBER INTERNATIONAL SEASON: Retiring hooker Stephen Moore has warned the wounded Wallabies they will face a "tough test" against an increasingly confident Scotland in their European tour finale in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Australia are looking to bounce back from last week's 6-30 defeat at Twickenham, where a record 24-point loss to England was somewhat harsh on the tourists.

They will also be trying to avenge a 19-24 defeat by Scotland in the teams' most recent meeting in Sydney in June.

"Scotland beat us earlier in the year, so we know they're a quality team," said Moore, the former Australia captain, who has been promoted from bench duty to collect his 129th and final cap as a member of the run-on XV.

"We know it's going to be a tough Test match for us," the 34-year-old Queensland front row added ahead of what will be his last competitive match in both professional club and international rugby.

"These two teams have been evenly matched over quite a period of time now,"

The gap between the countries has indeed closed dramatically since Moore made his first Australia start in a 44-15 thrashing of Scotland in Edinburgh in November 2006.

He scored the last of five Wallaby tries that day in what was a 16th successive Australian triumph over the Scots.

Scotland, who nearly recorded their first victory over world champions New Zealand before going down 22-17 to the All Blacks at Murrayfield last week, have won three of their six encounters with the Wallabies since that heavy 2006 loss.

Their June success was all the more impressive given they were without their three most potent attacking weapons in fullback Stuart Hogg, centre Huw Jones and wing Sean Maitland, all of whom are set to be in action at a sold-out Murrayfield on Saturday.

The three losses Scotland have suffered against the Wallabies in that period have all been by narrow margins: 23-22 at Murrayfield last November, 35-34 in a controversial 2015 World Cup quarter-final at Twickenham and 21-15 in Edinburgh three years ago.

But despite his team's impressive performance against the All Blacks, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend warned: "We've got arguably an even bigger challenge [against Australia].

"We're playing the current number three team in the world, arguably the best-attacking team in the world," he added.

"Australia beat New Zealand a few weeks ago. They were very good (in a 29-21 win) against Wales and had a lot of the game on a wet day against England, so we know we are playing one of the form teams in the world right now.

"If we drop our standards we are not going to win," the former Scotland playmaker insisted.

Townsend, who cites two spells playing with the Sydney club Warringah as the pivotal experience in his rugby career, has made four changes to his starting XV.

Maitland comes in for Lee Jones on the left wing, with No 8 Ryan Wilson, lock Grant Gilchrist and prop Simon Berghan all added to the home pack.

Wallaby head coach Michael Cheika escaped punishment by officials on Thursday following an investigation into his off-field behaviour during Australia's defeat at Twickenham.

It is his players' discipline, however, that will likely need to improve if Australia are to end their year on a winning note.

Fullback Kurtley Beale and openside flank Michael Hooper were both sin-binned against England.

Australia captain Hooper now holds the dubious distinction of being the most yellow-carded player in international rugby union history, with eight such cautions against his name.

Players to watch:

For Scotland: After an amazing performance against New Zealand last week, danger man Huw Jones heads into this match with extra confidence which is troubling for the Wallabies. Flyhalf Finn Russell has to be in his best form and which will be bad news for the Wallabies. Lock Jonny Gray will give Wales an advantage when it comes to line-outs. While captain John Barclay will prove to be a handful at the breakdown.

For Australia: In his last match, Wallaby legend Stephen Moore would want to bid farewell in stellar style and will want to be on top of his game. No.8 Sen McMahon has been amazing throughout the November Test series and will be a huge challenge for Wales. Scrumhalf Will Genia has been brilliant and will be a vital component in setting up the Wallabies' attack. Fullback Kurtley Beale's pace  will give the Wallabies an extra advantage, especially when it comes to counter-attack.

Head to head: The battle between Kurtley Beale and Stuart Hogg will be interesting. While in the middle Scotland's centre pair seemed to be slightly more composed than Tevita Kuridrani and Samu Kerevi. The flyhalf battle between Finn Russell and Bernard Foley also hands Scotland the upper hand.  In front, Australia is expected to win the loose trio battle which will give them the advantage.

Recent results:

2017: Scotland won 24-19, Sydney
2016: Australia won 23-22, Edinburgh
2015: Austalia won 35-34, London
2013: Australia won 21-15,  Edinburgh
2012: Scotland won 9-6, Newcastle, Australia
2009: Scotland won 9-8, Edinburgh
2006: Australia won 44-15,  Edinburgh
2004: Australia won 31-17,  Glasgow

Prediction: This is a really tough one to call. Scotland's narrow defeat to the All Blacks showed they have the ability to challenge any team. The Wallabies' defeat to England dented their pride and this week Michael Cheika's men would want to restore it and avenged June's lost to the Scots. With that being said, we think that, despite Moore's last match, Scotland will win by five points or less.

Teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (captain), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Darryl Marfo.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Cornell du Preez, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Phil Burleigh, 23 Byron McGuigan

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ben McCalman, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Karmichael Hunt, 23 Henry Speight.

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT, 01.30 AEDT, Sunday, November 26)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy, with a high of 6°C, dropping to 1°C
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland), David Wilkinson (Ireland)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com