PREVIEW: Scotland v Australia

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 07:23
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw will have the chance to put the family record straight when his team set out to avenge their controversial World Cup quarterfinal defeat by Grand Slam-seeking Australia at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Scotland have not met the Wallabies since Bernard Foley's 79th-minute penalty - which South African referee Craig Joubert later confessed had been incorrectly awarded - secured a 35-34 victory for Australia at Twickenham in October last year.

Thirteen months later, Australia, having emerged from their disappointing Rugby Championship campaign with an accomplished attacking performance in their 32-8 win against Wales last Saturday, will be confident of taking a second step towards emulating the celebrated Grand Slam-touring Wallabies of 32 years ago.

Back in 1984, a swaggering Australia side coached by Alan Jones, captained by Andrew Slack and featuring the goose-stepping wing David Campese and the brilliant flyhalf Mark Ella, completed a clean sweep of victories against the four 'Home Unions' (England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales) with a stunning 37-12 win against a Scotland side captained by Laidlaw's uncle, Roy Laidlaw.

Last weekend, the current Australia side scored five tries against Wales - the same number as they managed in that contentious one-point win over the Scots at Twickenham last year.

"We can't concede five tries again or we'll make it extremely difficult for ourselves," said scrumhalf Laidlaw, who will move from Gloucester in the English Premiership to join French Top 14 side Clermont in June. "We need to be really tight in our defence, really tight in our driving maul, our forward play, so we're not giving away cheap points."

Asked whether his team would be on a revenge mission, Laidlaw replied: "Nothing will ever make up for that defeat. We can use what happened in the World Cup to help us, but we need to stay in the moment. We'll never get that game back. We need to put our energy into the performance rather than looking back."

Australia, coached by Michael Cheika and captained by hooker Stephen Moore, travel to Paris to play France a week on Saturday before returning to the British Isles for the last two matches of their tour, against Ireland and England. Not that they are getting swept away with Grand Slam fever, despite their flying start in Cardiff.

"It was a nice way to start our tour but we've got a really tough test against Scotland," Moore cautioned. 

In-form flyhalf Foley added: "We're just thinking about a day at a time, a game at a time, and trying to improve as the tour goes on."

Cheika has made just one change to the starting XV that dominated Wales in Cardiff, Will Genia replacing Nick Phipps at scrumhalf after being released from club duty by Paris-based Stade Francais.

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter, who will join Montpellier in June when Gregor Townsend moves from Glasgow Warriors as his successor with the national side, is without injured props Willem Nel and Alasdair Dickinson. 

Edinburgh's Allan Dell makes his debut at loosehead and Glasgow's Zander Fagerson makes his first start, after one appearance off the bench.

In the back row, openside flank Hamish Watson, who has impressed with Edinburgh this season, takes over from John Hardie, while at outside centre Huw Jones of the Stormers wins his second cap. 

Hooker Ross Ford makes his 100th appearance, becoming Scotland's third cap centurion, after Chris Paterson and Sean Lamont.

Players to watch:

For Scotland: Stuart Hogg is one of the most dangerous ball runners in world rugby, while centre Huw Jones has been impressive on attack while playing for the Stormers and Western Province. Loose forward John Barclay is a hard man to bring down in the physical exchanges and locks/brothers Jonny Gray is Richie Gray are key in Scotland's set pieces.

For Australia: Fullback Israel Folau has the power and pace to give Scotland plenty of problems, while centre Tevita Kuridrani showed against Wales that he has a lot to offer on attack and on defence. Michael Hooper and David Pocock are masters at the breakdown and are key in the Wallabies' defensive game. Captain and hooker Stephen Moore leads by example and will put is body on the line for a win.

Head to head: The two fullbacks, Stuart Hogg and Israel Folau, have a lot of X-factor and love to run with the ball. Huw Jones will be wanting to prove that he can play with the best on the international stage and it will be interesting to see how he and Alex Dunbar come up against Tevita Kuridrani and Reece Hodge. The breakdown battle will be another key area on the field with Michael Hooper and David Pocock looking to outplay the likes of Hamish Watson and John Barclay.

Recent results:
2015: Australia won 35-24, London (WC quarterfinal)
2013: Australia won 21-15, Edinburgh
2012: Scotland won 9-6, Newcastle
2009: Scotland won 9-8, Edinburgh
2006: Australia won 44-15, 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 (WC quarterfinal)

Prediction: Australia impressed with their performance against Wales last week, but Scotland will provide a bigger challenge and they will be wanting to beat the Wallabies badly after their World Cup quarterfinal defeat last year. Scotland will win by five points. 

Teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Moray Low, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 John Hardie, 21 Ali Price, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Rory Hughes.

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 David Pocock, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Scott Sio.  
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Will Skelton, 21 Dean Mumm, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Quade Cooper.

Date: Saturday, November 12
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT; 01.30 AEDT Sunday, November 13)
Expected weather: It will be partly cloudy with a high of 11C and a low of 9C. There will also be a slight breeze.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Agence France-Presse & rugby365com