Key Clash Preview: Australia v Scotland
Date: 5th June 2012
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Venue: Ausgrid Stadium
Anyone who has seen the Australian sides in this year’s Super Rugby competition will no doubt have been fairly unimpressed. Put the surprising surge of the Brumbies to one side and the remaining four Australian sides have struggled for consistency throughout the whole campaign thus far. That said, there is no shortage of talent. The next line of Wallabies are ready for their acid test and playing against Scotland will represent a huge opportunity for the likes of Joe Tomane, Mike Harris, Michael Hooper and Luke Morahan.
Without a win since facing Georgia in last year’s Rugby World Cup, you could forgive Scotland for a severe case of pessimism ahead of this summer’s tour. After picking up the Wooden Spoon in this year’s Six Nations they now have a chance to start again on tour as they rebuild for the future. Players such as Greig Laidlaw, Matt Scott, Richie Gray and Ross Rennie all hold great promise but have to kick on this summer. A win against Australia, even a weakened one, would be a huge surprise.
What to Expect:
Australia’s decision to opt for two playmakers in the midfield suggests they are braced for a tough time up front and eager to control the game with the boot. James Slipper and Dan Palmer are both young props of outstanding promise but are learning their trade, presenting Euan Murray with a chance to exploit. Where Scotland are at a disadvantage however is at the breakdown, playing John Barclay out of position at 8 and up against the threat of David Pocock.
Head to Head: Berrick Barnes & Greig Laidlaw
If we’re honest, Barnes is in a rut. In a season where the Waratahs have been atrocious, he has been at the centre of their demise, endlessly kicking to little effect. With Australia short of options however at fly-half – Quade Cooper is returning to fitness whilst James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale are both crocked – Barnes is the man.
Laidlaw stepped into the breach during the Six Nations with Dan Parks gone, but found success hard to come by despite some good showings. After a brilliant season for Edinburgh in the role, it feels as though he is settled in the number 10 jersey with Duncan Weir hot on his heels. An unknown the last time Scotland were in Australasia, this is a huge tour for him.
Ones to Watch: Joe Tomane & Ryan Grant
A pair of debutants with slightly different acceleration abilities. Tomane’s conversion from the NRL looks like a success in his first season in Union, part of a brilliant Brumbies side that has defied plenty of critics with their free-flowing style and big results. Grant on the other hand narrowly missed out on selection for the Rugby World Cup, which judging by how Scotland performed is actually no bad thing.
When you want to end a losing run, don’t face one of the SANZAR sides. The Wallabies have a lot of inexperience but world class talent in Genia, Pocock, Ioane and Sharpe. To win in Newcastle would be an enormous accomplishment for the Scots. But I can’t see it. Australia by 10
by Ben Coles