Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v Australia: Autumn Nations Series 2022, Match Preview pt I

Autumn Nations Series - Scotland v Australia

KO 5.30 at BT Murrayfield
Saturday 29th October 2022

Live on Amazon Prime Video

There was a four-year gap between meetings of Scotland and Australia before the visitors rolled into Edinburgh last November. Now, less than twelve months later, the Wallabies are back for what will be their 20th Test match at Murrayfield.

Streaks in the Scotland v Australia at Murrayfield fixture:

  • 2017-2021 Scotland won 2
  • 2013-2016 Australia won 2
  • 2009-2012 Scotland won 1
  • 1982-2008 Australia won 7
  • 1958-1981 Scotland won 5
  • 1947-1957 Australia won 1
  • 1927-1946 Scotland won 1

The dark blues have won their last three in a row against the Aussies at all venues (Murrayfield 2021, Murrayfield 2017, Sydney Football Stadium 2017). Scotland have never previously managed four successive wins in the 95 years that these sides have been playing each other.

Australia Scouting Report

Ranking Problem

After a tough three-Test series against England and then The Rugby Championship, Australia have dropped to an all-time low of ninth in the World Rugby rankings. The Wallabies haven’t been helped by playing 7 of their last 9 fixtures against sides ranked in the top five but no matter the strength of opposition 3 wins from their last 12 games is not a great return for a nation that has reached four World Cup finals, winning two of them.

In fact, apart from a seemingly Quade Cooper-inspired purple patch in 2021 that saw them turn over world champions South Africa twice in a week and win 5 matches in a row, victories have been rare currency indeed for Australia since the last RWC in Japan. Outwith that short-lived hot streak, they have won just 6 of their other 24 games from 2020 to 2022.

Scotland’s record at Murrayfield against sides ranked 9th or lower in the world (since the rankings were introduced nearly twenty years ago) is won 23, lost 3 with the defeats coming against 14th ranked Italy in 2015; 9th ranked Wales in 2009; and 12th ranked Italy in 2007.

The Argentina Analogy

Both of these countries tackled the Pumas over the southern hemisphere winter – Scotland winning one and losing two in July and Australia managing a win and a loss in August. The Wallabies dominated territory and possession in their first encounter with Argentina but still had to rely on a near total meltdown late on by the home side who led until the 65th minute.

A week later, the Aussies were comprehensively beaten in San Juan – a record win for Argentina over Australia in fact, with a try count 7 – 2 in the Pumas’ favour. Losing 17 turnovers and conceding 13 penalties were key issues for the Wallabies as they were overpowered by their hosts.

Scotland weren’t able to make ground consistently with ball in hand during their three Test series, averaging just 266m carried per game (Australia averaged 461m in their fixtures against Argentina). When they were playing well though the Scots were very efficient at translating this into points scored, bagging four tries in a comfortable win in the second Test and then another four in a third Test where they should have seen out the series victory with something to spare.

Scotland’s setpiece was at the root of much of their misfortune in South America. Across the three Tests they lost a dozen lineouts – 6 of them in the final game alone – and half a dozen scrums. That level of imprecision is unlikely to cut it if the dark blues are to have a successful Autumn Nations Series, starting with the game against Australia on Saturday.


  • The Australian scrum conceded 15 penalties in The Rugby Championship – the most in the tournament.
  • In their series against England, the Wallabies averaged 26 defenders beaten per game – the most of any of the sides involved in the major cross hemisphere three-Test series.
  • Australia were the only side in The Rugby Championship not to score a try from a lineout maul.

Previous results

This will be the 9th 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 15 – 13 Australia

(Jump to 1:50 to enjoy seeing Nic White go flying…)

Significant stat
11 – defenders beaten by Scotland’s starting back 3 of Duhan van der Merwe, Darcy Graham and Stuart Hogg – more than all the rest of their teammates combined. Despite that trio running free, the home side struggled to break down a stuffy Australian defence and it took two short-range tries by forwards to eke out a very narrow win. Scottish fans will be looking forward to seeing if the top two finishers of the Townsend era – Graham and van der Merwe – are more involved on the scoresheet this time round.

The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.


Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referee 1: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referee 2: Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Stuart Terheege (England)

This will be a new experience for Mr Pearce who has previously only ever refereed Scotland in matches against Italy. The English official is one of the world’s top refs (he must surely be in the running for next year’s RWC final) but will no doubt still be able to rely on some expert free advice from a large proportion of the Murrayfield crowd!

Scotland lost the penalty count in 7 matches in a row prior to the summer before drawing the first Test against Argentina and winning this stat in the latter two games. Australia averaged 14 penalties conceded per game during The Rugby Championship. Mr Pearce’s tendency is towards low penalty counts but these two sides may well test his patience.

Scotland’s previous games with Mr Pearce in charge:

  • 2019 – beat Italy (H)
    Penalties: 15 (For 4 – 11 Against)
    Cards: 1 YC (Simon Berghan)
  • 2020 – beat Italy (A)
    Penalties: 19 (For 12 – 7 Against)
    Cards: none
  • 2022 – beat Italy (A)
    Penalties: 15 (For 7 – 8 Against)
    Cards: none

Scotland Team

Scotland: Ollie Smith, Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Blair Kinghorn, Ali Price; Pierre Schoeman, Dave Cherry, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie (capt), Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, WP Nel, Glen Young, Jack Dempsey, George Horne, Ross Thompson, Damien Hoyland.

Australia Team

Australia: Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Tate McDermott, Tom Wright, Bernard Foley; James Slipper (capt), David Porecki, Allan Alaalatoa, Nick Frost, Cadeyrn Neville, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper, Rob Valetini.
Replacements: Folau Fainga’a, Matt Gibbon, Taniela Tupou, Ned Hanigan ,Pete Samu, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Jock Campbell.

Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow shortly.

32 Responses

  1. Ain’t an international week without a Kev Millar statspiece.

    Great work, as per. Good to know if we lose on Saturday we’ll be emulating the Italy losses in 2007 and 2015!

    I don’t think the team should have anything to fear this weekend. Obviously the restrictions on selection aren’t ideal but Aus are also missing players and really have not been that good even when everyone’s been available recently.

    Saying that will in all likelihood be a 3 point loss in the final minutes

    1. Agreed, I have almost as much anticipation for the Scottish Rugby Blog analysis as for the game! Much appreciated Kev 👍🏻

  2. Looking at Saturday’s team, who’s covering 12/13? Would have been better to include a centre on the bench given BK can cover back 3.

    1. Its a fair point, not sure I’ve seen Thomson play in the centres before but that would probably be my option from who is on the bench. Interesting that McDowell and Steyn have been released back to Glasgow for this weekends game. Id have been tempted to put Steyn on the bench as cover for wings and centre although I dont think Toony is a fan.

  3. Agree Steyn on bench would make much more sense – maybe he’s still struggling for match fitness.

    If there’s an injury to either centre we’re committed to playing one or more players out of position – thats just plain daft.

    GT does have a weird ‘thing’ for selecting players out of their normal positions. I pure love Sione at Glasgow, he’s a brilliant outside centre – but he’s bang average at 12. I’d have liked to see Chris Dean given a chance, especially now Sam J’s out for a while……but I guess he’s another thats must have pi$$ed in GT’s chips.

  4. re the game on saturday – how strong will the Aussies be – in past they havent brought their A team over, or have been a bit under-cooked

  5. Like the look of this team and while appreciate Tuipulotu hasn’t had his best games at 12 last season I do see a rejuvenated player at 13 this year and hopefully this translates at IC. I haven’t posted re Russell but believe for the sake of the team this may improve the collective ( hindsight will be everything). As things stood I couldn’t see us getting out of the group at the WC and so one will judge this decision on that outcome. I believe Gregor has tried to include Russell over a number of seasons but in a more intense environment than club rugby this hasn’t worked (unlike other posters I perceive a player should be desperate to play for their country and conform to the greater cause) I back the coaches and Scotland!! Time will tell

  6. Strange : Glen young 27 years of age only 15 Edinburgh appearances picked on the bench. What is that all about? A late career sprint. Richie Gray , 67 Caps, 1 Lions test Cap, only 33 same age as Gilchrist, not lost a line out all season, Stole numerous from the opposition, hardened test match player, left out. Who would I rather see coming off the bench. Now if I can see it, what must it be like in those changing rooms.

  7. Kinghorn at Standoff, he will be hammered the whole day long, but he is a class player, he will give as good as he gets. I just don’t understand how it is only Gregor Townsend and me that see it. Russell is in France, such a slow pace of game there. Stepping up was hard last 6N.

      1. For Kinghorn to perform to his club game abilities a strategic plan will have been considered by the coaching team which will allow him to use his strengths and build in confidence. Though the Australian team will look to disrupt his channel where similar problems mIght arise as seen in Argentina.

    1. Is this post serious Tam?

      Russell was poor last season because of fatigue, at least according to himself. He did a Lions tour then a full gruelling season in Top 14. Resting him for summer tour was sensible; I only hope Toonie’s comments on form are related to last season rather than this, as he seems to have recovered, and we see Russell return to the squad shortly. We’ll see I suppose.

      The Top 14 might be grinding at times but no doubt it is the best NH league and it’s apparent ‘slow’ pace doesn’t seem to the detriment of N’Tamack or Jalibert or any of the other extremely accomplished FHs in that league.

      1. Yes I am serious, Kinghorn is underrated and in Toony we have a class coach. The envy of the 6 nations. Bred in the rugby heartland of Scotland.He doesn’t need to play along with the dependance we fans have in Finn. Kinghorn is good and capable. Let’s stop being so negative.

      2. I have a soft spot for Toonie but think he’s been in the job too long. But he’s not the envy of any 6N sides – given the choice I doubt any would swap their coach for Toonie. He was a rising star at one point but Scotland have stalled and he crashed us out of the RWC19 in the group stages – he really doesn’t have much pedigree compared to our 6N rivals.

      3. Pretty sure Tam is Toony who one really would hope had better thing to do with his time like trying to get Kinghorn to be a better distributor than trolling us on SRB.

        Toony in my view has had his time, yes there have been some good moments, as one would expect in 5.5 years, but the race is run, we have seen what his coaching is capable of and it isn’t going to get any better. Time to take a punt on someone else.

        Finn may be a bit immature at times, but he isn’t a bad bloke and it’s the job of a coach to manage a squad, blend discipline with actually getting your few world class players on the pitch.

      4. How we have all changed our tunes now. 5 years ago you mocked those who posted their disappointment at the incredulous appointment of Gregor Townsend. Posters who were traumatized as we could see all of this unfolding. ‘In Toony we trust’ they said, they laughed at the doubters, but they are not laughing now. Is there anyone out there who still believes this is acceptable! This has been a long campaign.

    2. Just for the record I was always against replacing Vern. I have always complained that Townsend has favourites and that he seems to fall out with players. I wanted him sacked after that Ireland performance at the last World Cup.

  8. The pack are going to have to really front up to give us quick, clean ball as otherwise, really fear for our 10/12 axis. BK’s best skill at 10 requires space for him to run attacking lines; bottle him up and his kicking and game management come under pressure which are definitely not his strong points. And Tuipulotu at 12 won’t give an alternative play-maker option. If we have space and time to get the ball wide so the back 3 are able to create then we have a chance as long as we’re not forced to simply go laterally. A decent starting 8 up front but if they can’t provide a solid platform, can’t see the bench providing the necessary boost. Will be an interesting as well as possibly nerve-wracking/frustrating/torrid watch

    1. This is what annoys me most about Toonies “strategy”. I get the rationale for starting Kinghorn at 10, even though I don’t agree with it, but if you do then you clearly need a second distributor and kicking option at 12. To then go and pick a 13 at 12 who has continually shown that he isn’t very good at 12 and certainly isn’t a second distributor is just bonkers.

      The man is incapable of admitting an experiment didn’t work and that is not a good attribute for a coach.

      1. I really hope I’m wrong, but I suspect both wingers will be lucky if they see a pass all day…even a BK bounce pass.

  9. I have to say I’m not bothered by Tuipulotu at 12, I think he has multiple skillset. I think he can distribute, step, crash, kick. We talk about triple threat 10’s well he could be a quadruple threat 12. It would obviously be better if he was getting more club time at 12 but i think he just needs time in the saddle. It wasn’t so long ago people were saying how Hutchinson was only a 13 not a 12. most decent centres can interchange particularly 13 to 12. some 12’s don’t have the speed and defensive skills to move out to 13 but I think Tuipulotu has all the right ingredients to play either.

  10. Enjoyed that Miotti – McDowall combo for Glasgow. Walker and Cancelliere very good to. to. McDowalls kicking game impressive.

  11. Defence is good bar a few stupid individual errors.

    Strike moves seem ok, Smith took his try well and has a nice subtle step very close to contact, looks assured.

    Poor game management and kicking (in general). Don’t want to blame Price/Kinghorn but ultimately they need to be dictating the game as the playmakers, and for me not reaching the standard expected of an international halfback pairing yet.

    Would be nice too see the wingers get the ball more… if the playmakers cannot distribute out then they need to go looking.

  12. Not having a good kicker on the park is foolish especially in a tier 1 match where every point matters.

    Ollie Smith looks a very assured FB. His defensive positioning seems better than Hogg’s.

    Kinghorn not commanding this match like a quality 10 should. Center pairing looks too similar. Young looks a better lock than Gilchrist…imo
    Wingers getting no quality ball whatsoever.

    1.  Ultimately the yellow card cost us at a time where we were taking control of the match.

      Should have won it…

      1. TC :That is not fair, Townsend will get it right eventually, look at Harris. After numerous caps he scored a try against Romania, or Russia and justified that Toony had made him an adequate jersey filling internationalist. So you take that back.

      2. RB: Should have been red. I don’t want to see him again, he is barely a bench warmer for Edinburgh.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion