Preview: Australia v Scotland

04th Jun 2012, 08:00


Last time out: Scotland looking to repeat 2009 win

Last time out: Scotland looking to repeat 2009 win

The June Tests window opens on Tuesday in Newcastle, where Scotland will be seeking their first win on Australian soil since 1982.

The June Tests window opens on Tuesday at Newcastle's Hunter Stadium, where Scotland will be seeking their first win on Australian soil since 1982.

Scotland beat the Wallabies 9-8 the last time these teams met - at Murrayfield in 2009 - and although the visitors must be considered the underdogs, Andy Robinson's team will fancy their chances of another upset in climatic conditions similar to those that saw the Scots win in dramatic fashion three years ago.

The weather aside, much of the talk ahead of the clash has revolved around selection, which is understandable considering three of Australia's five Super Rugby franchises were in action over the past weekend, forcing Wallabies coach Robbie Deans to a field a somewhat experimental side.

Deans will not need reminding of what happened the last time Australia opened their Test season with a below-strength team, when a pumped-up Samoan outfit exposed the Wallabies' lack of depth at international level.

In addition to the limits imposed on the hosts with their cramped schedule, the absence of a number of key players due to injury - like Kurtely Beale, James O'Connor, James Horwill and the not-quite ready Quade Cooper - will leave a lot of fans Down Under feeling very nervous ahead of the upcoming series against Grand Slam champions Wales.

Unfortunately for those hoping for a rare northern hemisphere win south of the equator, Scotland are not in the same class as Wales - as illustrated by their winless Six Nations campaign.

Scotland will know their best chance of success will be to try dominate the Wallabies in the tight stuff. Apart from a debutant in their front row - in the shape of Ryan Grant - they do arrive with a solid, experienced pack.

Wet weather can be a great leveler and Robinson will convince his side that, with enough guts, another upset is possible.

"When we last played Australia three years ago, it was one of the most courageous performances of scramble defence I have ever seen," said Robinson.

"Four times Australia were over our line only to be held up and it will require that uncompromising resolve in Newcastle on Tuesday if we are to repeat that success."

Deans has spoken of his experience of "well organised" Scottish sides under Robinson and no one should underestimate the value of the extra time the tourists have had to prepare.

But the question is whether Scotland - with nine players in their matchday 22 that have played less than 10 times at Test level - will have the firepower to compete with one of the southern hemisphere's big guns.

Players to watch:

For Australia: A month or two ago, few would have predicted that Berrick Barnes would be pivoting Australia's attack. But with Cooper, O'Connor and Beale all missing, the Waratahs playmaker has a massive responsibility. With 37 caps to his name, Barnes is no newcomer to the Test fold, but this may turn out to be the most important period of his career. Like Barnes, David Pocock will need to clear his mind of his Super Rugby franchise's poor season as he is charged with the responsibility of leading a team that has had precious little time to prepare. If things go wrong early on, as they did against Samoa, Pocock's role in keeping his team together will be crucial.

For Scotland: Edinburgh's 21-year-old centre Matt Scott was, by his own admission, a wide-eyed 17-year-old when Scotland beat the Wallabies at Murrayfield, but was inspired by that day to give everything to reach the highest level. Now that time has come. As a member of the entertaining Edinburgh side that made it the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, he's had a taste of the big time. Many feel he has the potential to become a great distributor - he might need to prove to us that he can take, and dish out, a few big hits too.

Head to head: With wet weather expected, kicking for territory is likely to be the order of the day, making the battle for possession between the second rows at the line-outs crucial. Richie Gray and Alastair Kellock have both had strong seasons for their club sides and will give veteran Nathan Sharpe and newcomer Sitaleki Timani a real challenge - not only in the air, but in the battle to clear out the rucks. Debutant Dave Dennis offers Australia a genuine extra line-out option from the back row and will be expected to put his 113kg frame to good use.

Previous results:

2009: Scotland won 9-8 at Murrayfield
2006: Australia won 44-15 at Murrayfield
2004: Australia won 31-17 in Glasgow
2004: Australia won 31-14 at Murrayfield
2004: Australia won 34-13 in Sydney
2003: Australia won 35-15 in Melbourne
2003: Australia won 33-16 in Brisbane
2000: Australia won 30-9 at Murrayfield

Prediction: Scotland's victory in 2009 ended a 27-year losing run against Australia, while also securing the Hopetoun Cup for the first time. Much as that win will have inspired Tuesday's visitors, the home side should have the edge. Australia by nine points.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Australia: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Anthony Fainga'a, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham 7 David Pocock (c), 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Michael Hooper, 20 Nick Phipps, 21 Pat McCabe, 22 Adam Ashley Cooper.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Joe Ansbro, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Mike Blair, 8 John Barclay, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Alastair Kellock, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford (c), 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Jon Welsh, 18 Tom Ryder, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Duncan Weir, 22 Tom Brown.

Date: Tuesday, June 5
Venue: Hunter Stadium, Newcastle
Kick-off: 19.30 (09.30 GMT)
Weather: Heavy Rain. Extremely Windy. Min 10°C, Max 16°C
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Keith Brown (New Zealand)