Scotland v Australia: Autumn Nations Series 2021, Match Preview pt I

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.

Captain Marvel

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.

Previous results

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:


Most recent meeting in Edinburgh:

Scotland 53 – 24 Australia

Significant stat
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)
    Cards: none
  • 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)
    Cards: none
  • 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)
    Cards: none

Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow later in the week, after the team announcements.

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When he's not watching Glasgow, Scotland (and even Edinburgh) Kevin can usually be found with his head in a spreadsheet working out the most obscure Scottish rugby related stat he can put out on Twitter.
Follow Kevin on twitter @topofthemoonGW

55 comments on “Scotland v Australia: Autumn Nations Series 2021, Match Preview pt I

  1. Big Al on

    Squidge Rugby has done nice analysis of the Australians recent form on Youtube. They’re in form, confident and their coaches know most of our players well and adapt their game to the opposition tactics. This could be a tough one especially as they play a bit like us and we havent faced that kind of challenge for a while. Hopefully we’ve kept something up our sleeve to surprise them with.

  2. Rob on

    You beat Australia by attacking them

    Australia have always been defensively weak but will score against anyone. Strike at their weakness, look how many the Ab’s put on them, and look how Aussies beat a toothless but defensively strong Springboks.

    Have a mentality of score more than they do for this game, put out our best attacking backline.

    I’d give Jones an opportunity here, two tries In his second game when he first played them, and will want to show Dave Rennie it was a mistake to not select him.

    Stuart Hogg(CC)– Duhan Van Der Merwe – Huw Jones – Matt Scott – Rufus McLean – Finn Russell – Ali Price – Matt Fagerson – Hamish Watson – Jamie Ritchie(CC) – Jamie Hodgson – Grant Gilchrist – Zander Fagerson – Stuart McInally – Pierre Schoeman

    Chris Harris – Adam Hastings – George Horne – Nick Haining – Sam Skinner – Oli Kebble – George Turner – Jamie Bhatti

    • Not science on

      I’d love to see Huw Jones against Oz and with an axe to grind against Rennie. But he’s been bumped off Quinn’s bench in recent weeks by return of Smith as far as I can tell and question if he has had any game time. Could be another motivation factor could be rusty…

      • Ardent on

        No he’s been on bench last two Quins games though only had something like 5 mins and 25 mins respectively.Of more concen is that even with Marchant either absent or playing on the wing they have preferred Northmore at OC.In fact he came off the bench at IC on Sunday which is not really his postion.

      • Scotty on

        I wonder how many more coaches it’ll take to not pick Jones for him still to be raved about by Scottish rugby fans and picked in their XVs.

      • Not science on

        I don’t know Scotty can you reverse the Currie Cup, the Scotland debut, the Calacutta Cup and even many player of the months awards for Glasgow when apparently at his worst? No knock on Harris mind.

      • Scotty on

        I just find it interesting that despite the fact his last 4 coaches haven’t picked him as their first choice 13, he’s played about 20 minutes of rugby in the past 6 months and Harris is now a capped Lion, people still want Jones to start because he scored a couple of nice tries about 4 years ago. As Ardent said, even with Quins’ first choice 13 away, he still doesn’t get a start. He needs to play regular rugby to get back into the Scotland team and, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he’ll get it at Quins.

      • RuggersB on

        Too many coaches are not selecting Jones… for there not to be a definitive and consistent reason. We need to move on from putting him on a pedestal for selection.

      • Neil on

        I think Huw was in good form for Glasgow once he got a bit of game time, was tearing defences apart (at 15) before his injury and was making the bench again for Scotland, he is by no means a bad player or a huge drop-off in quality, undeniably our best attacking 13. Could just be taking time to settle in at Quins.

        He has always turned up when representing Scotland.

    • Big Al on

      I agree, Tandy will be having nightmares about this game with full Finnsanity likely to be on show from both sides. We’re not going to win it playing like South Africa.

    • 1.8T on

      Completely agree. We had the philosophy of “doesn’t matter how much you score, we’ll score more” for a while in the fastest rugby in the west era. We dropped that for a more pragmatic approach, shored up the defence a bit and have reaped the rewards but we need to go out there and get after them this weekend. Look at the 2017 match, even with a red card, give them ball in the right places and they will score, even with 14 men, but keep the ball and make them defend and they will struggle.

    • RuggersB on

      Disagree…. great defense is essential to winning rugby matches at the top level. Since hiring Tandy our defense has since seen huge improvements and its because of that our performances are closing the gap that was evident.
      In addition, focussing on dulling their strongest skill set may frustrate them into mistakes.
      Imo…Its important be controlled and clinical. We are not at NZ level yet to duplicate their tactics.

      • andyc on

        I agree. In fact i think Ritchie should be made captain now going forward. Just my opinion . I think it would help Hogg to be focused on his own game. The law tweaks have made Full back a full time job !

      • TENC on

        You mean a full back that stays back and tacks marauding invaders below the waist. The world has gone crazy.

    • TENC on

      Oh Dear Scotty : Huw Jones: Best Player to wear the jersey this Century and his peers know it. He is likely to be at Quins as a utility player now, so the bench is no surprise. People pick him (wrongly ATM IMO) as they recognise he is that good. Try scoring rate second to none, only Visser came anywhere near and his face doesnt fit either (but I get that). I would really like to know what happened at Glasgow, Currie Cup winner while a student, clean cut, going places , what happened? Why was he dragged down? Why were we never ready for it ! Strange both Huw and Visser end up at Quins. He is with the current Premiership Champions. They never bought Huw Jones for no reason, they get it as well.

      • Scotty on

        TENC I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not but I’m going to bite regardless and suggest you’re being serious.
        Best person to wear the Scottish 13 jersey this century is obviously not true. Since his debut in 2016 he has worn they jersey 24 times (plus 7 appearances from the bench) out of a possible circa 55…hardly locked it down has he.

        His try scoring rate being second to none is also not true. Of the current Scotland squad with players of over 10 caps, the strike rate is:

        VDM: 0.8
        Graham: 0.47
        Horne: 0.42
        Jones: 0.39

        Of his past 4 coaches (5 if you include Gatland not picking him for the Lions) he’s been overlooked for the 13 jersey by every one of them. And even for his new club (strike rate of 0 for 5 by the way) he is looking like 3rd choice 13. Why should Scotland’s international side settle for a 13 who is ranked behind an England squad player who can’t get into the team and a player who can’t even get into the England squad altogether?

        The obsession needs to stop though I think Jones will be 5 years into his retirement and still be appearing in people’s selections.

      • TENC on

        Touchy…. Good job we are entitled to our own opinions. If you want to complain about team selections , ask yourself why people keep selecting Olympics medal winner Bennett or someone called Matt Scott. You will find Jones numbers are down because he has not been starting and only gets a skitter of time on the pitch.

      • Kevin Millar on

        Up to the end of the England game in the 2018 Six Nations, Huw Jones averaged a try for every 95 minutes played for Scotland. Since then he averages a try every 448 minutes in Test rugby.

        There are a few odd ones with very limited appearances with a strike rate better than a try per 95 minutes (David Cherry has a try for every 38 minutes played for example) but of the current crew with a decent number of games Duhan van der Merwe has a try for every 94 minutes played and George Horne a try for every 70 mins. (Visser was a try every 171 minutes)

      • Boss H on

        It is a strange , facts do not always reflect emotional opinion. Take the 5 lions on the pitch on Sunday. VDM and Price have 3 test caps, Hogg 2, Russell and Harris 1 each. That does not feel correct does it ! Should we trust facts or opinion ?

  3. Scotty on

    In other news Scott starts for Leicester tomorrow against Bath so we won’t be seeing him unfortunately. No sign of Baylis for Bath so perhaps he’ll make the bench? Looks fairly decent in a struggling Bath side from what I’ve seen.

    • RuggersB on

      Not surprising…GT has clearly never rated Scott enough. He won’t be in any GT 1st choice 23 selection.
      Bayliss?…might as well try him from the bench…none of the 8s we have given game time to have inspired. Its our weakest spot in the squad.
      Interesting Bradbury has really fallen out the picture.

      • Toony Tunes on

        No it would not work well at all , Scott is in the same lay by as SHC. As for Bradbury, Edinburgh have Matta at 8, so he needs to buddy up with that pair, put his career earnings first, find another side and see if he gets a crack at the jersey. The consolation being he gets a game and a wage.

    • J.D. (Boss) Hogg on

      Scott , what , Matt Scott ! he is 30 , scored 5 tries in 39 matches , Last played (seriously) in the 2013 season , got to Japan in 2016 and you, still think he is up to it ! Are you not the guy who criticised those who want to see Huw Jones play (12 tries in 30 appearances, Currie and Calcutta cup winner). Eh , no I don’t agree with you. Shaking head in disbelief.

  4. RuggersB on

    Stuart Hogg(CC)– Duhan Van Der Merwe – Sam Johnson– Chris Harris – Kyle Steyn – Finn Russell – Ali Price – Matt Fagerson – Hamish Watson – Jamie Ritchie(CC) – Sam Skinner – Grant Gilchrist – Zander Fagerson – George Turner – Pierre Schoeman

    Rufus McLean– Adam Hastings 10/12/15– George Horne – Josh Bayliss 6/7/8 – Jamie Hodgson– Javen Sabastian – Dylan Richardson 2/7– Ollie Kebble

    Doubt this will be the team but I think trying a few new options off the bench would be good….at least they are getting top quality test.

    • DesT on

      An awful lot of people have Horne on the bench. Unless he was injured last week, then it’s criminal that he wasn’t given a start.

      Personally, the way that GT treats his reserve scrummies leaves a lot to be desired.

      Personally, unless Horne was injured then Dobie should be on the bench. In terms of the 23, I’d have the following:

      Hogg (c), Graham, Harris, Johnston, VdM, Russell, Price, Schoeman, McInally, Z. Fagerson, Gilchrist, Skinner, Ritchie, Watson, M. Fagerson


      Bhatti, Turner, Kebble, Hodgson, Richardson, Dobie, Hastings, Steyn

      • Warks Scot on

        Would probably swap Graham and Steyn so Graham on bench to cover back three – and Hastings can also cover FB – but otherwise agree with your selection. Sounds like Richardson is treated as and wants to be considered a back rower so presumably wouldn’t be parachuted in as sub hooker. It will be a tough game but no reason not to be realistically hopeful; the Lions experience will have benefited a number of the starting 15 and while Tonga weren’t the sternest test, it was a helpful run out.

      • TENC on

        I think we would need to question Toony’s rationale if Graham started ahead of Steyn. But then again, Toony never fails to show us who the boss is.

    • Grumpy on

      Sebastian as a replacement ? Why on earth and where did that come from ! It just gets better and better in here.

  5. Sam Laycock on

    I’m not sure DesT, I’m a big fan of Horne and would like to have seen horne get a lot more caps for both Glasgow and Scotland but he’s not been at his best this season and he’s struggled to get on the good side of referees in his URC games.

    • DesT on

      The only way he’ll get better is if he plays. Unless he was injured last week then it’s criminal not to give him a game.

    • Bass Rock on

      Horne has been injured for a while. There were times where I feel he was overlooked in place of Price who took a while to get to his best IMO. We may never see GH at his best again. There is a lot of good SH’s now. I wish we had the same problem elsewhere.

  6. Warks Scot on

    Perhaps Graham lucky to keep his spot though he’s now back in his usual position. A bit of a kick to Rambo, or perhaps a message to get his throws more accurate and consistent. Will be interesting to see how Ashmann and Bayliss go, can only assume that they will definitely be capped. A strong looking team with SEVEN Lions starting – when was the last time we had so many? If we keep our discipline, really think we have a good chance to win this one.

  7. andyc on

    This should be a belter of a game. Like the look of he team. Bench looks interesting also. Hastings appears to be playing really well for Gloucester and interested to see what happens in last twenty.

  8. Gaffer on

    Team selection?
    Strong in some areas untried in others.
    I would really have liked us to put 50 on Aus again and put Rennie back in his box but I dont think it will happen unless the new caps hit their straps.
    Scott Cummings and Johnnie Gray are big losses in the pack. Skinner hasnt shone for me in the Exeter games I’ve watched this season. Z Fag seems off the boil, Schoeman untested at this level.
    Ritchie Gray is coming onto a game at Glasgow and would gave been on my bench.
    SHClyne at Exeter is playing really well and I would have him on the bench too.
    It’s not typical Aus play but I can see Hogg and Graham getting peppered with high balls all day.
    Although we will be solid in defence i still think we are short of creativity at centre.

    • Tam on

      It will be interesting to see what systems they put in place to minimise our threats. Its the way in which Townsend and Tandy respond too. Its going to be a great game. COME ON SCOTLAND!

  9. Thin Russell on

    That team pretty much picks its self, I think this could be a real classic, Australia playing some of their best rugby for a long time and Scotland still on an upward curve. I’m interested in seeing if Hogg with his massive boot will be using the new rules to gain lineouts or still keep it to hand

  10. RuggersB on

    Not surprising selection….its a good team.

    Gray and Cummings missing is a fair blow…Gilchrist and Skinner will probably need their best games for Scotland.

    I dont see McInally not selected as surprising…I dont think he or Brown should be 1st choices anymore anyway… their throwing has been atrocious for last few years and Brown is just a penalty machine. Their time has gone imo.

    Id guess Graham will be targeted and high ball punted straight at Hogg…who is awful at catching. Graham is great going forward but gets badly exposed in defense. Its good that Steyn is on the bench.

    Bayliss could be a great back row for Scotland. Dont know much about him but watching some of his matches …jeez can he fly for a big lad. Very athletic. Will be interesting to see how Ashman does too.

    I think Australia have their tails up and have top level games/wins under their belt…and we on the other hand just have not played much top level rugby for a while. Australia dont have Quade Cooper tho and some of their recent success was with him in the team. Id guess an Australia win… could be a great game tho and go either way.

    • TENC on

      Ruggers wash your mouth out. No one wants to hear that criticism of our back three . I don’t think the Aussies will put the high ball at Hogg, I suspect they will play running rugby and try to run through them. Darcy is not what I expected but he has never let us down IMO.

      • RuggersB on

        Thanks for the tip… but my dental hygienist passed that one on to me when I was a wee nipper…the mouth is doing dandy’o.
        What was I thinking …our back 3 are rugby much so should be bottled.

      • TENC on

        That’s the stuff , don’t upset the real rugby fans. In all seriousness , well spoken. We are so deluded.

  11. Merlot on

    Great starting XV, given the loss of Gray/Cummings/Sutherland. I am a bit worried about the lack of experience/nous on the bench.
    If it’s close with 20 minutes to go (as I think it will be) then it’s a big roll of the dice to bring on so many (relative) youngsters.
    The omission of both Brown and McInally (and Dave Cherry) looks to me like one eye on the world cup – all three will be over 32 then and may be deemed past it. A shame as I thought the triumvirate of Turner-Brown-McInally competing for the #2 shirt would have been great over the next couple of years.

    • Referendum on

      Ashman needs capped….to tie him in. I reckon it’ll be a case of giving him that. McInally will possibly start Japan and Cherry may get game time too.

  12. JohnMc on

    I like the look of that starting XV. The strongest imo we could have fielded given injuries at lock.

    Five of the backs are Test capped Lions. Have we ever fielded five capped Lions in our back line at one time?

    Back row strong. Watson is widely acknowledged as class by fans and peers (and better than Curry btw), Ritchie should have toured SA and M. Fagerson came of age at Twickenham this year.

    The bench looks kind of experimental but maybe it’s just the best we can muster at the moment in the selectors’ opinion.

    Reading the Wallaby fan forums, there’s a hint of complacency about the expected outcome on Sunday. I’m sure their players won’t feel that way and will be desperate to avenge their 50 point gubbing not long ago, even though that scoreline was influenced by Kefu’s moment of madness.

    Should be a good game. Looking forward to it.

    • RuggersB on

      Dont know what they have to be complacent about…they haven’t won anything of note for donkeys years. They beat SA back to back…and thats impressive. One of the wins was bit fortunate..SA just spewed penalties. Regularly whipped by NZ ..much like everyone else. We’ll see….

    • Will on

      I’m Aussie and I think you’re wrong about the complacency. Scotland have become a bogey side for us in recent years so definitely taking this one seriously. It’s just a shame we won’t have our best 15 on the pitch with Kerevi & Cooper missing. We see the Scots as a 6N team that plays most like we do in the south so expect a high scoring match with plenty of running rugby (weather permitting…. ;-))

      Best of luck Scots – hope it’s a great game and hope we can put England to the sword the following week!

  13. Referendum on

    Roman Poite’s last International…let’s hope he is not a big influence or noticed as all refs like it.

  14. RuggersB on

    Interesting that Australia have gone for some real heavyweights off the bench. Our pack will have to punch above their weights a bit. I reckon Rennie is looking to outmuscle us rather than get into a battle of attacks…which maybe he thinks he would lose.

    • FF on

      Even at Glasgow Rennie talked about being brutal and direct a lot. Don’t think he has the players to do it really but there you go.

      Australia look much better than when we put 50 on them at their nadir. It’ll be a real test of our progress. Saying that it will also be interesting to see how much the loss of Cooper effects them as before he rejoined they were pretty ragged and far from impressive against France.

      • RuggersB on

        People forget we were losing before Australia got a guy sent off. It was very even ..the 15v15 match.
        Skelton ,Arnold and a few others are huge physical players …
        I’d think we’ll have to test their big guys mobility…when they cant get close to the ball and make them run hard. Long kicks turning them backwards and using the corners.
        Sounds like it might be a bit blowey so it might be a bit of mare for catchers….yikes I hope Hogg has been practicing.
        Anyway…reading their blog sites…their fans think this match just a wee challenge…a lead up to bigger games…they are not expecting to lose.

        Not convinced on Watson’s fitness….sounds like he is carrying a sketchy injury.

  15. TENC on

    I think Schoeman is quite capable and will step up to International rugby with ease. I feel for Sutherland , the man is made of the right stuff.

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