Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v Australia: Autumn Nations Series 2021, Match Preview pt II – head to heads

Autumn Nations Series - Scotland v Australia

It’s four years since these sides last met and there has been significant turnover in both squads. There are a combined 37 changes to the matchday 23s from that previous fixture. Michael Hooper is the only member of the Australian XV who also started the 2017 game between these teams at Murrayfield. Kurtley Beale and Taniela Tupou are the only other Wallabies who were involved that day.

Six Scots return from that 53-24 thrashing of Australia in the early days of the Townsend era. Finn Russell, Ali Price, Grant Gilchrist and Hamish Watson all started in 2017. Jamie Bhatti and Zander Fagerson were on the bench.

Tale of the tape

57   Tries   32
   Average weight   93kg
260   Total caps   156
Average age   26.0

904kg   Pack weight   905kg
   Tries   28
199   Total caps  375
Average age   27.7

68   Total caps   188
   Tries   29
25.8   Average age   26.7

6 Scotland changes from last Test (v Tonga)

  • 15/14 – Hogg for Steyn with Graham moving to 14 [+]
  • 13 – Harris for Tuipulotu [+]
  • 11 – van der Merwe for McLean [+]
  • 10 – Russell for Kinghorn [+]
  • 4 – Skinner for Hodgson [+]
  • 5 – Gilchrist for Harley [+]

15 Stuart Hogg (c)
14 Darcy Graham
13 Chris Harris
12 Sam Johnson
11 Duhan van der Merwe
10 Finn Russell
9 Ali Price

1 Pierre Schoeman
2 George Turner
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Sam Skinner
5 Grant Gilchrist
6 Jamie Ritchie
7 Hamish Watson
8 Matt Fagerson

16 Ewan Ashman
17 Jamie Bhatti
18 Oli Kebble
19 Jamie Hodgson
20 Josh Bayliss
21 George Horne
22 Adam Hastings
23 Kyle Steyn

ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland

ADV Australia
ADV Scotland
ADV Australia
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Australia

ADV Australia
ADV Scotland
ADV Australia
ADV Australia
ADV Australia
ADV Scotland

Andrew Kellaway 15
Tom Wright 14
Len Ikitau 13
Hunter Paisami 12
Jordan Petaia 11
James O’Connor 10
Nic White 9

James Slipper 1
Folau Fainga’a 2
Allan Alaalatoa 3
Rory Arnold 4
Izack Rodda 5
Rob Leota 6
Michael Hooper (c) 7
Rob Valetini 8

Connal McInerney 16
Angus Bell 17
Taniela Tupou 18
Will Skelton 19
Pete Samu 20
Tate McDermott 21
Kurtley Beale 22
Izaia Perese 23


Backs – advantage Scotland

For various reasons, the heart has been ripped out of the Australian backline that won back to back matches against world champions, South Africa. Tom Banks, Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete all made big contributions in both of those games but won’t be involved on Sunday.

The absence of Cooper is particularly egregious. The extravagantly talented Ozzie pivot has never gone head to head with the similarly skilled Finn Russell. It was a clash that would have been pure box office but now it looks more likely than not that these two will never play stand off against each other.

Forwards – even

The battle up front is in the balance but could well decide which side wins the war. Dave Rennie has opted to start with his steady options at prop before bringing on the shock troops in the second half. The back row battle will be ferocious, although an awful lot of what is good about Australia will, as it has done so many times before, rely on the indefatigable Michael Hooper.

While Scotland cannot call on first choice lock pairing of Scott Cummings and Jonny Gray, bringing Grant Gilchrist and Sam Skinner back in is a big step up for the setpiece and around the park. They will have their hands full countering an aggressive Australian lock pairing though – and that’s before 140kg behemoth Will Skelton is sprung from the bench!

Subs – advantage Australia

While the 459 caps among the Scottish starting XV are the 2nd most for any game since the World Cup, the 68 caps on the bench are the fewest for any game in the Townsend era bar the fixtures against Canada (48) and Argentina (58) on the 2018 Summer Tour.


– Scotland have 6 Test-capped Lions in their XV – Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris, Duhan van der Merwe, Finn Russell, Ali Price and Hamish Watson. That’s the most in any starting lineup for the dark blues in the professional era. The previous highest tally was 5 in a loss to England in 1998 (Paul Burnell, Craig Chalmers, Alan Tait, Gregor Townsend, Rob Wainwright).

 Australia have won their last 5 games. Prior to this streak, they hadn’t managed more than 2 consecutive victories since Autumn 2017. They will be aiming to knock over Scotland to leave them with a chance in their game against England of equalling their record run of wins this century – 7 achieved in both 2013 and 2015.

– Scotland are going for their 3rd consecutive win against Australia, something they have only managed twice before in their history, between 1958-1968 and 1975-1982.

– The dark blues have scored 17 tries in their last 4 meetings with Australia – that’s the same number as they had scored in their previous 20 games against the Wallabies from 1982-2013.

– This game will be Romain Poite’s last international match as a referee. It will be the 72nd Test match of his career, the 13th involving Scotland and the 9th at Murrayfield. For those who like (potentially) good omens, the French whistler’s first ever Scotland game was the 9-8 win over Australia at Murrayfield in 2009.

– For the 3rd time in the last 8 games there is a perfect 5-5-5 split in the starting XV among players from Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Exiles.

41 Responses

  1. This is the least I’ve known about an Australian team ever….so I’ll bow to ur decisions especially with Scotland so far in advantage…we really have a world class team these days.

    Interesting to see injuries throughout game, and cards being produced. Last week Berry was very quick to show yellow warning to Scotland. The way it should be but very few refs do so. Hopefully cheating won’t be rewarded this week either.

    Even with a full bench change we would still have overall advantage in this analysis.

    We have belief now too, knowledgeable of how to win and enough with enough caps to have confidence in their wisdom and trust each other. I’m excited about these matches but also winning the six nations with a great run. This is not empty or false optimism this is a real possibility now.

  2. I’m excited to be back at Murrayfield tomorrow (assuming my QR code works!)

    Having not watched the rugby championship I really don’t know this Australia team so really appreciate the analysis Kevin! Bookies have no points difference on the handicap betting so everyone seems to be expecting a very close game. I really hope injuries/cards/weather doesn’t spoil the game and we get to hear the Murrayfield capacity crowd in full voice!

  3. Nothing much in this on paper. You would hope home advantage with the first capacity crowd in ages would spur us on to victory. This will be more fun to watch than Lions v S Africa for sure.

  4. Think some of player comparisons may be a fair bit biased in favor of Scotland.
    When was the last time we beat SA back to back?

    On a side note….Australian fans on various blogs think this is a win for them and that it would have been a banker had they had the 3 that backed out of tour. That their forwards will pummel us.
    They even ridicule Scotland for having too many SA cast offs…pretty arrogant considering they are a country built on immigrants and milk the pac islands for players. Apparently its ok for them to select ‘Tongan Thor’ like players but its not ok for us to do similarly.

    I hope we stuff them…..and that every other home nation country does too.

    1. 1965-1969 was the last time we beat SA back to back.

      The trouble for Australia is that they have lost a good chunk of the backline that beat SA twice. Cooper, Kerevi and Koroibete were their 3 best backs in those matches and 3 of the 4 best players on the pitch alongside Hooper. Banks is maybe not quite as big a loss but he had nailed down the 15 jersey this year for Oz and his absence (plus an injury to Reece Hodge) pushes Andrew Kellaway off the wing (where he has been in excellent try-scoring form) to full back (where he has yet to play at Test level).

      Forwards are tough to call and it’s unlikely to come down to individual performances but rather which pack works most effectively as a unit.

      Replacements – Australia have got a pretty big advantage given the inexperience among the Scottish ranks.

    2. You do know that of the Wallabies starting XV, only 2 were born outside of Australia? So sorry about the country built on immigrants. That’ll happen when you have sunshine year round.

      1. Ok if you are 2 were born outside..but thats 2 more than none…so they do use that advantage when necessary also. Therefore dont take the P for Scotland doing it..

        Actually the year round sunshine is a myth….no where there has 365 days sunshine.
        …and I lived across 3 different states there for 6 years so I know it well… and it was just meh for me….but hey ho..besides the point.

  5. Feel like the Wallabies are being underrated here.

    I’d give slight Adv Australia for: Ikitau, White, Rodda, Hooper, Bell and McDermott.

    With that said I think Darcy has the edge over Wright.

    I do think we get overall parity with some key players who are significantly better than their opposites in Russell, Hogg, Ritchie and Turner. If these guys turn up I think we have the edge.

  6. Bit of an arm wrestle but a just about deserved win. Been said before but we are now a team that can close out tight games fairly consistently.
    Ashman did well, Hogg had a poor game.

    1. Ashman did very well, i was pleasantly surprised with how he just played with enjoyment, stepped up well

      Did Hogg have a bad game? I thought he was decent

      1. That game was won in the front row. Really nice to see us deservedly beat a team like Australia without really playing that well.

        I’d have had Ashman as my man of the match, despite that silly penalty right at the end. Looked good at the basics, and what a finish for his try!

      2. Several knock-ons particularly in defence which we were lucky not to get punished for. Couple of bad decisions in attack as well.

        He wasn’t bad, just not at his best

    2. Neil: I agree with Fraser. Look at the first 20 minutes and then tell me if you think he had a good game. He was lucky they were not on their game and got away with it, it might be different next week. It was great to win and we deserved it , fantastic.These Aussie’s out of sorts and we kept them out of sorts: smart.

      Examples of Hogg oversights :running from the 22 : wrong decision could have been held, avoided 1 on 1 tackle on 22 (last man), if the Aussie had held the ball , he was in under the posts . However his low kick to their 22 late in the match was sublime and some of his interventions were good, but TBH quite a few others had notable link passes , like Schoeman with his pass to Ashman and that Lineout for Watson’s try was perfect (Richie and Gilco wonderful). He was far from bad, however he was not quite his self. We will need him next week to get under the bombs. He has the experience , we cannot leave it all to Darcy.

  7. Phew! God knows why they didn’t take the kick! Possibly might have given them chance to run it back if no legs? But good win. Sometimes it’s great to win those close games Great performance by ashman on debut.

  8. Glad we got the first win of the season against the SH heavyweights. Rugby Championship has been a bit over-inflated I think…reality is its the most even the hemispheres have been for a while.

    and the crowd…genuine 16th man.

  9. I hope to get used to is closing out tight games. Really expected to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Getting some depth, developing team spirit and belief. South Africa will be a very different challenge. Think they will be too much for us upfront.

  10. room for improvement, methinks but that makes the win all the sweeter. Thought defence was excellent, and very good set piece work, which can be a weakness

  11. Always nice to win an arm wrestle against a SH side, especially one that’s coming in to the game on the back of five consecutive wins.

    I thought the Wallaby pack just about edged the first half despite being behind on the scoreboard. Was worried they’d build on that edge and do enough to win it second half. So it was really good to see a step-up up front in the second half.

    Tandy has worked miracles with our defence these past couple of seasons.

    As an aside, I’ve a funny feeling the Wallabies will beat England next week, or at the very least make it very tight, just like today.

    Don’t want to crow too much, but the Wallaby fans on their forums who idly assumed they’d easily overpower Scotland up front can enjoy sucking a few lemons today.

    Also agree with Fraser. By his standards, Hogg wasn’t that good today.

    1. I agree Hogg seems slightly off peak form and looked pretty emotional at the start. Cant see why hes getting such pelters on some blogs though. As captain he’s beaten Australia, Wales away, England away and France away in the last year. His captaincy seems to be working.

      1. Hogg tried too hard to win the game by himself (again), he needs to bring others into the game.

    2. I don’t think Australian fans have been talking up their team any more than you guys have been talking up your team. In the end, there was only 2 points in it, and it just as easily could have been a small win to the Wallabies. There’s nothing between these two teams.

      1. That’s fair comment. It could have ended up a narrow win for the Wallabies.
        Not having played a Test since Paris 6N, my worry was that we’d be undercooked against a side coming off the back of a typically intense Rugby Championship.
        Fewer mistakes next week, a bit of better fortune with the bounce of the ball and ref calls, and you could well turn England over.

  12. Excellent win! I’ll need to watch the game back but I’m the stadium it seemed like Oz were living off our mistakes and if we’d cut them out we’d have been reasonably comfortable.

  13. Our defense has improved exponentially under Tandy.
    Not the most fluid of matches…but tense and exciting to watch..
    Neither team at their best…but then when teams are so evenly matched this kind of slugfest usually ensues.
    One of the most notable changes to us, from the not so distant past, is our collective resilience. The confidence the Scotland players get from such wins..England/France/Australia.. its starting show what that gets you.
    Win next week and thats the serious challenger bracket.
    The way SA plays draws a physical battle.. will be interesting what the selection and tactics will be for that one..hopefully GT saw the Gatland lions tactics as a fail…and that we can do better than that.

    Ashman and Bayliss both look like really good additions to the team. Sam Johnsons defense has really improved…Gilchrist played really well too imo. Hodgson looks like he’ll be really competing at lock too.

    Anyway… great win. Pretty good battle well played Australia too.

    1. Gilchrist is a much better player than many give him credit for, or used to give him credit for.

      There was a poster on here a few years ago who dubbed him ‘Inspector-General of Rucks’, which may at that time in his career have been arguably fair comment.

      Anyhoo, he’s tough as old boots and that showed today against a Wallaby pack that’s the strongest for a good few years.

  14. Great performance from the front row today. Australia have a good scrum that gave South Africa a hard time recently and if the boys can perform the same way next week then we will have a platform to play off.

    My one big concern is if Zander gets cited for the hand on Hooper’s face incident which was unnecessary and ill judged. Its good we have a bit of an edge in our front row but we dont have endless resources there so they need to be carefull.

    1. Yes, he has a few too many of these moments. He does not need to prove he is hard. His play will do that without he unnecessary macho stuff.

    2. I think thats the weak spot in Zanders game…he gets involved in situations he doesn’t need to.
      There was some petty stuff from both sides tho …so unfair to target Zander.
      Nic White (dude!.. in the best interests of the sport remove the pedo tache!)…was just as petulant with Gilchrist on the ground.

    3. It was more of a hand over mouth with a little push than an eye gouge from what I saw – if so then penalty or yellow at most so hopefully wouldn’t merit a citing.

      He really needs to cut the stupid reactions out of his game though – he no longer has the youngster excuse.

  15. Was at the game today, great to be back at Murrayfield. Bit of a scrappy game, no momentum, was quite dull for the middle 40-60mins and the crowd went flat but the last 10mins was great, haven’t heard a Murrayfield crowd like that for a while.

    Great result and a ground out win. You take any win against a SH side. Australia never really looked like winning we were probably the better team and we got the win instead of snatching defeat as usual.

    Smashed their scrum and I think the ref could have brandished some more cards at them. Schoeman is an animal. I’ll watch the game back tomorrow but I was surprised at Mish getting the MOTM, he was quite anonymous from where I was sitting. Hogg and Price were trying to force things themselves too much. Harris was ok, couple of times he was screaming for the ball but never got it due to Price going himself or it never getting out to him.

    p.s. Michael Hooper is class, his management of the ref was outstanding and just another example of how you need a captain that is in the thick of the action.

    p.p.s. Ewan Ashman take a bow son, that’s an outrageous try for a hooker to score!

    1. Watson would not have been my MoM but i thought he did well, looked to be carrying an injury maybe?

      14/14 tackles, won a few turnovers, made ok meters and scored a try.. pretty quiet by his standards admittedly

      1. Watson is carrying a groin injury since end of last season…surgery was considered …but they went for rehab instead. He was deliberately held back from playing until his 40 mins v Tonga.
        So basically his groin could go at any time and that would be it for a fair while.
        Darge would have got game time ..but Id guess we’ll see Richardson get game time at least v Japan to cap him and give Watson a break.

      2. The front row were the big talking point, Schoeman is a great loosehead , Zander back to his best and both Turner and Ashman were immense. I rate Kebble, it was the front 5 that won this match .

  16. Oh and can someone explain why it was an Australian scrum 5 when Hoggy carried it back over the line, the ball never looked to touch the ground, he offloaded to Darcey (I think) who walloped it clear. Is it a new rule?

    1. He carried it over and it touched the ground. The laws are the laws even for Stuart Hogg you know. Poite had a great game.

      1. Compared to some of his previous I rather enjoyed his officiating today, still a couple odd calls though of course

You might also like these:

Craig is joined by Jonny and Iain to look forward to Glasgow's huge URC final in Pretoria, after the win against Munster and skirt around the latest news of the week.
Craig is joined by Jonny and Rory to look back at the disappointing end to Edinburgh's season and Glasgow's march towards the semi finals.
Gregor Townsend has named a largely experimental squad for the summer tour of the Americas. It's not a question of who misses out, but rather who is actually going, writes Rory.
Iain is joined by Jonny and John to discuss the penultimate round of URC fixtures as well as the recent Scottish Rugby Writers' Awards

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion