Preview: Scotland v Australia

Date published: November 10 2016

Scotland will be out for revenge when they host Australia at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The last time these teams met was in last year's World Cup quarter-final which the Wallabies clinched dramatically at the death for a narrow 35-34 victory. They would go on to lose to the All Blacks in the final.

The Scots enjoyed back-to-back victories over Australia on UK soil in 2009 and 2012, but they have lost their last Tests against the Aussies, the last game at Murrayfield resulting in a 21-15 defeat.

After an encouraging World Cup campaign followed by two victories in the Six Nations, there is plenty of optimism in Scottish rugby at the moment. That confidence will be tested on Saturday when they come up against a resurgent Australia who are aiming for a Grand Slam to cap off a tough season.

The Wallabies thumped Wales last week with a commanding performance and Scotland will be wary not to fall into the same traps their Six Nations counterparts did. The Scots should be mindfull of Australia's ability to offload in the tackle and play more of their rugby in the opposition half, something Wales struggled to do last week.

Australia, on the other hand, will be looking to build on their win over Wales with more of the same: quick line speed, effective cleaning at the breakdown and width out wide.

Team news:

Scotland hooker Ross Ford is set to earn his 100th cap for the national team. Ford made his international debut when he replaced Gordon Bulloch against the Wallabies in Edinburgh in 2004 and has been a mainstay of the Scotland front-row since his return to the jersey two years later, starting 83 of his Test appearances to date.

He follows in the footsteps of Scotland’s two other cap centurions in the men’s game, record cap holder Chris Paterson (109) and Sean Lamont (105).

Ford’s extensive experience could prove invaluable this weekend as he prepares to pack down between clubmate Allan Dell – who will mark his debut with a starting spot in the loosehead berth – and once-capped, 20-year-old tighthead prop, Zander Fagerson.

Fagerson is one of three players to earn his first Scotland start at Murrayfield, with the scintillating form of Edinburgh back-row Hamish Watson and Stormers centre Huw Jones rewarded with a place in the back-row and midfield respectively.

Michael Cheika has brought scrum-half Will Genia straight back into Australia's starting line-up for the Test against Scotland on Saturday.

Genia missed the clash against Wales last week after his club Stade Français refused to release him for international duty, since the match fell outside World Rugby's Test window.

Cheika has kept the same back-row as the Wallabies rolled out against Wales, with David Pocock starting at blindside flanker for the second Test in a row, despite Dean Mumm returning from suspension for the clash.

The move is a major show of faith for number eight Lopeti Timani, who has now started three Tests in a row, after replacing Pocock in Australia’s Test against Argentina in London last month.

Players to watch: Ross Ford will be up for the occasion in his 100th Test while Jonny and Richie Gray will play a massive role up front in trying to give Scotland the ascendany in the forward exchanges. Tim Visser is a threat out wide and Scotland will be sure to use his pace and power to make inroads into the Wallaby defence.
For Australia, Reec Hodge had an good game against Wales and will want to continue that form against Scotland. His distribution gives the backline an extra attacking threat out wide and he creates space for the players on his outside, something Tevita Kuridrani took full advantage of last week. 

Head-to-Head: Greig Laidlaw is Scotland's general at the back and akways leads by example. His service to Finn Russell will be key in getting Scotland going at the back while his tactical kicking must help them play the percentages and ensure they don't get bogged down in their own half like Wales did last week. He will come up against the returning Will Genia who comes back into the Aussie side despite Nick Phipps being in good form. Genia is a wonderful attacking scrum-half and Australia will use runners to run off him from second and third phase. His sniping runs around the fringes means Laidlaw will have to keep a close eye on his opposite number. 

Prediction: Australia are coming off a big win over Wales and are chasing a Grand Slam. History is on their side, but Scotland have managed to beat them at Murrayfield before so the Wallabies would be foolish to write them off. Last year's World Cup heartbreak is sure to add some extra spice to the game. Australia by 10-15.

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 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, 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
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)