Match preview: Scotland v Australia, Autumn Tests 2016

KO 2.30 at Murrayfield Stadium, Saturday 12th November
Live on BBC 1

Whatever the venue Scotland v Australia is a fixture that has created plenty of memorable moments over recent years. Matt Giteau’s late, late miss in 2009; Al Strokosch and Jo Ansbro’s celebratory headbutt in 2012; Israel Folau’s stroll through the defence in 2013; Craig Joubert’s left arm pointing to the sky in 2015…Here’s hoping the capacity crowd due at Murrayfield on Saturday get the game they deserve.

SCOTLAND
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Sean Maitland
13 Huw Jones
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Tim Visser
10 Finn Russell
9 Greig Laidlaw (c)
HEAD-TO-HEAD
EVEN
ADV Scotland
ADV Australia
ADV Scotland
EVEN
ADV Australia
EVEN
AUSTRALIA
15 Israel Folau
14 Dane Haylett-Petty
13 Tevita Kuridrani
12 Reece Hodge
11 Henry Speight
10 Bernard Foley
9 Will Genia

1 Allan Dell
2 Ross Ford
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Richie Gray
5 Jonny Gray
6 John Barclay
7 Hamish Watson
8 Ryan Wilson
.
ADV Australia
ADV Australia
ADV Australia
EVEN
ADV Scotland
ADV Australia
ADV Australia
EVEN

1 Scott Sio
2 Stephen Moore (c)
3 Sekope Kepu
4 Rory Arnold
5 Adam Coleman
6 David Pocock
7 Michael Hooper
8 Lopeti Timani

16 Fraser Brown
17 Gordon Reid
18 Moray Low
19 Grant Gilchrist
.
20 John Hardie
21 Ali Price
22 Peter Horne
23 Rory Hughes
.
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Australia
EVEN
ADV Australia
ADV Scotland
ADV Australia
EVEN
ADV Scotland

16 Tolu Latu
17 Tom Robertson
18 Allan Ala’alatoa
19 Rob Simmons
20 Will Skelton
21 Dean Mumm
22 Nick Phipps
23 Quade Cooper
.

Overall

Backs – even
These are two high octane back lines that want to move the ball. The Scottish group have the raw materials but have flattered to deceive in their execution at times. In the early part of their match against Wales the Aussie backs showed they were bang in form when it came to ripping defences apart – but still managed to leave 3 or 4 tries out on the pitch.
Forwards – advantage Australia
Scotland are missing 2/3rds of the DFN front row so the goal slips from domination to parity at scrum time. David Pocock was missing the last time the 2 sides met and the Aussie back row trio look to have the edge for what could be a crucial breakdown battle.
Subs – slight advantage Scotland
Both sides are missing players and bringing through new blood. The pattern of the game may well be set by the time changes start to be made.

Team Talk

  • Scotland name 13 of the squad that featured in their last match against Japan in June, with the majority of changes due to injuries or previously injured players returning.
  • Ross Ford will be the 40th male player and the 3rd Scotsman to win 100 Test caps for their national side.
  • 90 different players have earned their first cap in the period between Fordy’s 1st and his 100th.
  • Greig Laidlaw is just 13 away from 500 points for Scotland.
  • First caps: Allan Dell (Scotland cap no. 1077), Ali Price (Scotland cap no. 1078 – if he gets on!)
  • First starts: Huw Jones, Zander Fagerson, Hamish Watson
  • Home debuts: Huw Jones (first appearance back in the city of his birth), Rory Hughes

Previous results
This will be the 16th time the 2 sides have met at Murrayfield with the head to head seeing Australia slightly in front on 9 wins to 7. Results in the pro era are a bit more one-sided though, looking like this from a Scotland perspective:

L L L L L W L

Last meeting in Edinburgh (23rd November 2013):

Scotland 16-21 Australia

Of course the most recent meeting between the Thistles and the Wallabies was actually that infamous Rugby World quarter final at Twickenham 390 days prior to this rematch. Despite the fact that only 22 of the 46 players (11 for each side) on duty that day return for this fixture the dramatic nature of the conclusion of the game will be front and centre when it comes to motivation. The noise around Craig Joubert’s error and subsequent quick getaway has somewhat masked the fact that in the last frantic 7 or 8 minutes both sides contrived to throw away wining positions. Scotland fans in particular will be hoping their team can be a bit more composed if they find themselves ahead late on in Saturday’s game.

Stat to study

Kicks:
Scotland 26 Australia 28
There were more kicks than at the Moulin Rouge in a match which, at times, saw both teams seemingly more comfortable when not in possession. The Ozzies’ excuse was they couldn’t stop turning the ball over – knock ons; forward passes; interceptions; all the classics were there and they often looked more dangerous on the counter-attack. For Scotland it was a case of getting the game inside Greig Laidlaw’s penalty kicking range as much as possible. With Australia’s most recent match against Wales only featuring 29 kicks in total hopefully the Murrayfield crowd can look forward to both sides keeping ball in hand a lot more.

Australia scouting report:

  • Their maul is a weapon and they won’t be afraid to use it – particularly given Scotland’s susceptibility to being overpowered.
  • Part of the reason for using the maul though might be Bernard Foley’s indifferent form from the tee, making kicking to touch the higher percentage option.
  • The Ozzies threw 246 passes and offloads against Wales, bamboozling the defence and creating try scoring opportunity after try scoring opportunity….but they bombed a number through handling errors and for a period in the second half it all looked very messy as their precision deserted them.
  • They forced Wales to make 168 tackles. Scotland cannot expect to make that many and keep their line intact. The longer the home side can retain possession the more chance they may be able to impose themselves in defence as well.
  • Sekope Kepu is a penalty magnet. Whether at the setpiece or in the loose, Scotland should look to target his lack of discipline.
  • David Pocock is finding his feet in an unfamiliar role – but he’s still the man to avoid when he’s hunting behind the defensive line.
  • Australia lacked a dominating carrier in the forwards in the RWC quarter final but now they have Coleman, Arnold and Timani. This bruising trio get them on the front foot and generate the quick ball their backs thrive on.
  • Conversely Scotland had a strong ball carrying option in Dave Denton a year ago. With the big number 8 out the Scottish forwards selected have to step up against an Australian pack that gives little away around the fringes.

Officials:

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe (NZRU), Ian Davies (WRU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)

This will be the fifth time that Mr. Lacey has refereed Scotland. The dark blues have a 2 win, 2 loss record when the Munster whistler has been in charge. They have ‘won’ the penalty count on each previous occasion with the aggregate being 49 for and 32 against. This is the complete reverse of his Pro 12 record when officiating Glasgow matches and the Warriors’ front rowers in particular will be wary of getting on Mr. Lacey’s bad side.

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