KO 2.15 at Murrayfield
Sunday 7th November 2021
Live on Amazon Prime Video
The fates have conspired to keep Scotland apart from the southern hemisphere sides who contest The Rugby Championship. Having dodged this quartet at the 2019 World Cup and been unable to travel to or host any of these sides in 2020 it’s now been 3 years since the dark blues played Argentina or South Africa and 4 years since they played Australia or New Zealand.
The Wallabies are the first TRC side to make the trip to Edinburgh in a post-lockdown world. They travel with a backroom stuffed full of coaches with experience in Scotland:
- Dave Rennie – head coach (coached Glasgow Warriors)
- Matt Taylor – defence coach (coached Glasgow Warriors and Scotland)
- Dan McKellar – forwards coach (played at Aberdeen Grammar and Boroughmuir)
- Petrus du Plessis – scrum coach (played at and coached Glasgow Warriors)
- Scott Johnson – director of rugby (coached Scotland)
On the flip side, there are plenty in the Scottish setup who will know some of Australia’s key leaders inside out. It should make for a fascinating tactical contest!
Australia Scouting Report
In, Out, Shake It All About
2021 has seen the Wallabies relax their restrictions on selecting players who play outwith Australia. During The Rugby Championship that meant recalls for Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon who all play in Japan’s Top League. With quarantine restrictions to deal with though that trio have opted against extending their time away from their clubs.
That means more opportunity for European-based players. Rory Arnold, Tolu Latu and Will Skelton play in the Top 14 in France and were already in the squad to power up the pack. Cooper’s withdrawal has meant another recall for the peripatetic Kurtley Beale – Finn Russell’s clubmate at Racing 92.
The increased firepower at his disposal should allow Dave Rennie to move closer towards the high risk, high reward gameplan he favours. If he’s selecting big men up front it’s with the intention of winning quick ball more than grinding down the opposition. The Rennie environment is also ideal for getting the best out of supposed mavericks like Cooper and Beale. Scotland defence coach, Steve Tandy, will have his work cut out and his systems will be thoroughly tested on Sunday.
Michael Hooper has maybe flown under the radar in terms of global attention as one of the great back rows. Competing against the All Blacks so often can’t be easy (29 of his caps have come against New Zealand). Neither is trying to fill a shirt worn by an Ozzie legend like George Smith or frequently being seen as junior partner to turnover machine David Pocock in the ‘Pooper’ back row partnership.
The Waratahs player has always been an outstanding flanker in his own right though. Racking up 116 caps despite only turning 30 a matter of days ago is testament to a remarkable resilience and obdurate tenacity. It’s only made more astonishing by the fact that Australia have played 125 Tests in that time so he has only missed 9 internationals across the last 9 years. He has captained the Wallabies in more Tests than any other player and has lead by example even in the face of some extremely challenging times for Australian rugby.
He did have the misfortune to make his Test debut against Scotland in a monsoon in Newcastle (the Antipodean one) in 2012. In fact he has just a 50% win ratio against the dark blues, emerging victorious 3 times but losing on the other 3 occasions he has tackled Scotland.
- Scotland have won 4 of the last 7 meetings between these sides (2009 – 2017) after having lost 16 in a row to the Wallabies between 1982 and 2006. That losing streak had an average margin of defeat of 22 points.
- During the most recent Rugby Championship, Australia had statistically the weakest scrum winning 72% at the setpiece. The quality of the opposition has to be factored in though and with Petrus du Plessis coaching the scrum, Scotland will need to work hard in this area to gain any advantage.
- Andrew Kellaway took the scenic route to Test rugby, debuting at the age of 25 after playing in 3 different countries. He has taken to it like a duck to water though and with 8 tries in his first 7 starts for the Wallabies he will be a real danger man out wide for the visitors.
This will be the 8th time the two sides have met in Scotland this century. The head to head looks like this from the home side’s perspective:
L L L W L L W
Most recent meeting in Edinburgh:
Scotland 53 – 24 Australia
39 – the number of minutes Sekope Kepu lasted before being red carded. The prop’s departure galvanised Scotland and they ran buck wild once he was sent off, bagging 7 tries in the remaining 41 minutes. With Finn Russell at full Finnsanity, the dark blues were willing to attack from pretty much anywhere and racked up 620 metres with ball in hand – the most in a game under Gregor Townsend until they made 879m in thrashing Russia during the 2019 RWC.
The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referee 1: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referee 2: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
M. Poite has a reputation for letting the breakdown sort itself out. With some of the world’s best jackallers likely to be on show in the shape of Michael Hooper, Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson that could be a recipe for chaos when trying to hold on to attacking ball and build phases.
Over the last decade, Scotland have rarely won the penalty count with the French whistler in charge. That’s partly down to the quality of opposition faced (games have mainly been during the Six Nations) but, as ever, there is a need to ensure clear communication with the ref and get an understanding of exactly what he wants to see.
Scotland’s last 5 games with M. Poite in charge:
- 2017 – beat Ireland (H)
Penalties: 16 (For 7 – 9 Against)
- 2018 – lost to South Africa (H)
Penalties: 17 (For 9 – 8 Against)
Cards: South Africa 1 YC
- 2019 – lost to Ireland (H)
Penalties: 13 (For 6 – 7 Against)
- 2019 – beat Georgia (H)
Penalties: 19 (For 8 – 11 Against)
Cards: Scotland 1 YC (Zander Fagerson), Georgia 2 YCs
- 2021 – lost to Ireland (H)
Penalties: 20 (For 9 – 11 Against)
Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow later in the week, after the team announcements.