Scotland v Australia - Teams and Prediction
EDINBURGH SHOWDOWN: Coach Gregor Townsend has called on Scotland to channel the spirit of Paris as they prepare to host the in-form Wallabies in Sunday’s clash at Murrayfield.
The head coach is delighted that he has been able to name a team featuring 14 of the 15 players who started the Six Nations victory away to France in March, with the injured Rory Sutherland the only absentee from that side.
That was the first time the Scots had won in Paris for 22 years, and – despite the fact almost eight months has elapsed since then – Townsend is hoping the feelgood factor from that match can be built upon.
“I couldn’t believe that 10 days ago we had all 15 players available that started that game but just as I mentioned it to a coach, Rory Sutherland got injured in training,” reflected Townsend ruefully.
“It’s a unique situation in rugby that we can select from such a similar group.
“Those players showed their togetherness and resilience in Paris.
“That was one of the best performances I’ve been involved in with this group in terms of the way we started it, the way we managed it, the way we had to defend when we were a man down on two occasions, and then we came back to win.
“Even though it has been almost eight months, this group know they have been a team before, a winning team.
“We’ll need the same resolve, same togetherness and same quality of rugby on Sunday to beat Australia.”
Scotland have played only one match since then – last weekend’s routine 60-14 win over Tonga.
Australia, by contrast, have managed to squeeze in 11 games since July and have won each of their last five.
Townsend admits Australia could have an edge in that regard.
He said: “It could be a concern. This is our first game with this team for more than seven months. We have been playing games at club level, so players have been getting battle-hardened, some more than others.
“The learning that the Australians have been exposed to has been fantastic.
“They’ve played the All Blacks seven times over the past two years, they’ve played the world champions [South Africa] twice, they’ve played Japan and Argentina – teams with different styles – so you’re going to improve with these exposures.
“We’ve just got to look to build that cohesion straight away. We’ve had two weeks’ training and just one game with this group of players, but they seem to have bonded well.
“They’ve trained with energy and communication has been high so those are usually positive signs that we’ll get off to a positive start on Sunday.”
Townsend has made six changes to the side that started the 10-try victory over Tonga, with Stuart Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe, Chris Harris, Finn Russell, Sam Skinner and Grant Gilchrist all added to the team.
“Last weekend, players played very well but we’re backing this group of players,” said Townsend.
They did a lot of good things in the Six Nations and, since then, a few of them have gone on to have more experiences that should make them even more rounded players and more confident Test players.”
Players to watch
For Scotland: The Scots have plenty of firepower in their backline with some key players returning. Stuart Hogg is back in the No.15 and will lead the team. He is dangerous when given time and space on the counterattack and can cause problems from first receiver as well. Wing Duhan van der Merwe is an explosive ball runner and he has a knack for finding a way to the tryline. Finn Russell is one of the best attacking flyhalves in the game, while his halfback partner Ali Price knows how to vary the attack. In the pack, No.7 Hamish Watson is a firecracker at the breakdowns and he is a hard man to bring down when he gets going.
For Australia: Lock Rory Arnold is back in the Australia pack and he has plenty of experience. He is also a big physical presence, which will help the Aussies up front. James O’Connor returns to the flyhalf position after Quade Cooper starred there in the Rugby Championship. O’Connor has the X-factor to unlock opposition defences and his showdown with Finn Russell will be an exciting one. There are also two big names in the form of Will Skelton and Kurtley Beale on the bench.
Head to head
@rugby365com: Scotland by five points.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Oli Kebble, 19 Jamie Hodgson, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 George Horne, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Kyle Steyn.
Australia: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Nic White, 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Rob Leota, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Pete Samu. 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Izaia Perese.
Date: Sunday, November 7
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14.15 (14.15 GMT; 01.15 AEDT Monday, November 8)
Expected weather: It will be windy with a chance of rain. High 10°C and low 5°C.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
AAP & @rugby365com