Preview: Australia v Scotland

Date published: June 4 2012


It is not often that anger dominates the week leading up to a game but that has been the case ahead of Australia taking on Scotland on Sunday.

Three-week suspensions for hooker Ross Ford and second row Jonny Gray shocked the rugby world on Tuesday as the Scots enter this key game depleted.

Ford in particular can feel hard done to for even receiving a citing, but Scotland must use all of that frustration as a driving force at Twickenham. Who knows, maybe Saturday morning's appeal in Canary Wharf will see sense prevail.

Even a Herculean effort might not be enough to defeat this Wallaby side though, who have been the in-form team still in the competition after coming through the Pool of Death with a perfect four wins from four record. Defensively and attacking wise, Michael Cheika's outfit have shone.

How they saw off the challenge of Wales with thirteen men remains fresh in the mind and it's worth factoring in what confidence that would have given them heading into the knockout stages. By that we mean they have gone to the darkest of places on the field and come out with a victory.

Perhaps more importantly they avoided the route of South Africa and possibly New Zealand standing in their path to the final. Good luck Wales.

What makes things even rosier for the Wallabies is that this week sees the return of Michael Hooper, who adds so much to their side alongside Ben McCalman and Scott Fardy. Meanwhile, their locks and crucially front row have yet to have a poor game which will delight fans Down Under.

Scott Sio and Sekope Kepu really have stood tall up front this Rugby World Cup and with Greg Holmes and James Slipper solid prop replacements, Stephen Moore and the rest of his pack and half-backs are enjoying regular front-foot ball. It is no coincidence Bernard Foley is flourishing.

Unlike last week it will be that Australian attacking threat that will be interesting to watch and with Scotland having been less than stingy during their last two games – leaking 34 and 33 points respectively against South Africa and Samoa – the Wallabies will be licking their lips.

It will of course take some initial work for Michael Cheika's men, with Scotland set to employ a territorial game based around Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell and Peter Horne. And judging from recent meetings between the two sides – Scotland's 9-8 and 9-6 wins of 2009 and 2012 preceding a 21-15 Australia victory – maybe a cakewalk isn't such a certainty under the pressure of a quarter-final.

Close maybe, but we don't foresee anything other than a Wallaby win to mark Matt Giteau and Moore's 100th cap as, unlike in the past, this is an Australian squad that no longer has a soft underbelly. Is it strong enough to go all the way?

Ones to watch:

For Australia: Israel Folau's injury denies him the chance of breaking his Rugby World Cup try drought, with Kurtley Beale getting the nod at full-back. Beale was so impressive off the bench for Australia in their big win over England, combining well with Bernard Foley as the two players took their chemistry from the Waratahs and cut the hosts open repeatedly in defence. Scotland have been warned – losing Folau might not be a bad thing after all.

For Scotland: Due to Ross Ford's absence, a massive opportunity awaits Fraser Brown in Scotland's hooker jersey this weekend. At 26, it is surprising that Brown has only made 28 appearances for Glasgow but that is due to a period out of the game with injury. He certainly is making the most of his career now as his 15th cap awaits on Sunday. Doing the basics against a strong Wallaby pack is a must for Brown. Elsewhere there is a recall to the side at inside centre for Peter Horne, coming in for Matt Scott, and he's an intelligent ball player.

Head-to-head: They have played against each other in the past but never on the international stage as Michael Hooper and John Hardie collide on the openside flank at Twickenham. Hardie has impressed since arriving from the Highlanders and looks to have nailed down the seven jersey. Meanwhile, Hooper returns from his one-match suspension and is sure to be full of running. A hugely exciting battle.

Recent results:

2013: Australia won 21-15 at Murrayfield
2012: Scotland won 9-6 in Newcastle, Australia
2009: Scotland won 9-8 at Murrayfield
2006: Australia won 44-15 at Murrayfield
2004: Australia won 31-17 in Glasgow

Prediction: Cheika's Australian machine will march on to the semi-finals. Wallabies by 12!

The teams:

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c) 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Quade Cooper

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Dave Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 Blair Cowan, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 WP Nel, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Kevin Bryce, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Alasdair Strokosch, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Richie Vernon, 23 Sean Lamont.

Date: Sunday, October 18
Venue: Twickenham
Kick-off: 16:00 local
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)