We need to talk about last October.
Yes, we were robbed. But that’s in the past. As fans, we should really move on. With a group of players this exciting it is the future we should look to, not the past.
That doesn’t mean the team and the crowd can’t channel the emotion left over from last October into the sort of passion required to sculpt a performance on Saturday at BT Murrayfield. There’s no point in getting carried away – especially as the chief villains of that particular piece were not Australia themselves.
Neither should we go on about Craig Joubert – after all we’ve got John Lacey refereeing on Saturday with the potential for all manner of injustice to appear. Focusing on perceived injustices is something that has been refreshingly absent from Vern Cotter’s reign as Scotland have improved genuine chances to win games, so let’s keep it that way.
But if the team and the crowd can harness that emotion to get into the game early then it could be a positive. It should be used as a way to harness the atmosphere of that World Cup, and perhaps skip over the less impressive Six Nations and Japanese tour that took place afterwards.
We could also look to the more recent future for inspiration.
With their victory against the All Blacks in Chicago sending a wake-up call to the world (of the good sort, sorry Mr Trump), Ireland have given teams like Scotland that traditionally struggle against the Big Three some hope. The win itself is not the point to take, it’s the way they did it: defensive aggression, astute tactics, clinically taking their chances and keeping the errors to a minimum. Yes they slowed the game down a bit to dilute the effectiveness of All Black fitness, but it’s not like they didn’t play any rugby.
World rugby has moved on, and there is increasingly less room for the 9-8 scrap in the rain type of upset that we saw against the Wallabies at Murrayfield in 2009. If you’re going to do it, you have to do it like Japan did against South Africa in the World Cup; win properly, not accidentally.
Yes, the big teams may need to have an off day, but for Scotland to be respected at the level we want they need to be a team who capitalise on that – really capitalise on it when it happens. To be taken seriously in any sense – Six Nations, Lions selection, whatever – Greig Laidlaw(/Duncan Hodge/Chris Paterson/ etc) hauling the team over the line with pinpoint kicking and a bad day at the office for the opposition’s kicker is no longer going to cut it.
Vern Cotter’s team are quite well suited to face this Wallaby side who are undeniably talented, but still throw plenty of loose passes. Mark Bennett and Finn Russell capitalised during the World Cup and concentration in defence is the key, both to unleash counter attackers like Bennett, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg and also to stop the Wallaby strike runners.
Without wanting it to seem like a damage limitation exercise – it doesn’t have to be that way – if they don’t defend cleverly then Scotland could be on the receiving end of a hiding like Australia dished out to Wales last weekend. With clean ball to play with, Bernard Foley and Israel Folau could be truly terrifying to supporters in navy blue.
The pack have a huge role to play too, and whether John Hardie, John Barclay or perhaps Hamish Watson is selected at 7, the openside will be charged with disrupting the Australian ability to get the ball away smoothly at the breakdown.
A lot also rests on the shoulders of whoever Cotter picks at tighthead – likely to be Zander Fagerson – and whoever runs the lineout – most likely Jonny Gray – as the Australians rely on clean set piece ball to unleash their attacking moves so Scotland will need to disrupt (legally) as much as possible.
No one really gave Scotland a chance before that World Cup semi and the fight they showed in that game did a lot to change minds, before the Six Nations this year perhaps reset them back to the tag of serial under-performers against better teams. Let’s face it, France and Italy were both pretty poor. A resurgent Georgian team who can target the Scottish scrum, and an Argentinian side who dispatched Japan in comfort also await Scotland this autumn. With ranking points on the line, a strong start is crucial to maintain confidence.
So come on Scotland, it’s time to show us what you are really made of.