Australia chief Dave Rennie says 53-24 Scotland defeat of 2017 has left scars

Australia’s last visit to Edinburgh ended in a scarcely credible 53-24 defeat and Dave Rennie says the scars still remain for those involved that autumn afternoon.

Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie during an Australia training session at Peffermill sports fields in Edinburgh. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie during an Australia training session at Peffermill sports fields in Edinburgh. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Scotland ran in eight tries in what was their biggest ever victory over the Wallabies both in terms of margin and points scored.

It all took place long before Rennie became involved and the Australia coach said it was not a match they had dwelled on in their preparations to face the Scots again on Sunday at Murrayfield.

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“There hasn’t been a lot of talk about it,” said Rennie, the former Glasgow Warriors chief. “There are a handful of guys who played in that game. We are pretty much focusing on what we’ve got to do now and haven’t reflected too much on the past.

“I imagine there are a couple of scars there for those who played in it. I think they underestimated Scotland. There was a red card that probably made things tougher for the Wallabies, but it was a Scottish team that can hurt you and it’s pretty similar to what we are going to face this weekend.

“We’ve got a huge amount of respect for them. They will be very well prepared. I know the coaching staff well so they have a very strong coaching group. We are very well aware they will throw a few things at us.”

The 2017 win along with the 38-38 draw in the 2019 Calcutta Cup probably represent the zenith of Townsend’s freewheeling Scotland. The side is now a little more pragmatic, tougher to beat but still boasting some formidable attacking weapons.

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Celebrations as Stuart McInally touches down for Scotland's eighth try during the 53-24 win over Australia at Murrayfield in 2017. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Rennie, doubtless mixing a dose of diplomacy into his analysis, has been impressed by their development and reckons they were unlucky not to win the Six Nations.

“They have grown, I reckon,” said the coach. “They’ve obviously got a forward pack that can be hugely competitive, very good post tackle, they have a strong defensive game and they probably kick a bit more than they did.

“We’ve seen a lot of those players – Finn Russell, Ali Price, Stuart Hogg – who have been around for a long time. It gives them a lot of strike power and experience.

“We’ve watched a lot of their footy recently, all the Six Nations games. I thought they had a really strong tournament. They were a late penalty away from beating Ireland and got pipped with 14 men against Wales. They beat the rest. They were very close to winning it.”

Only Kurtley Beale, Michael Hooper and Taniela Tupou from Australia’s 2017 match-day squad at Murrayfield remain for this weekend’s rematch, proof of the rebuilding job Rennie has done on the Wallabies. Hooper will captain the team on Sunday while Beale and Tupou will start on the bench.

Rennie has picked lock Rory Arnold for his first start for Australia since the 2019 World Cup. In other changes after beating Japan 32-23 two weeks ago, Allan Alaalatoa returns to the front row, James O’Connor replaces the absent Quade Cooper at stand-off, and Andrew Kellaway is back at full-back after Reece Hodge was ruled out by injury.

Australia: Andrew Kellaway; Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia; James O’Connor, Nic White; James Slipper, Folau Fainga’a, Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Izack Rodda, Rob Leota, Michael Hooper (c), Rob Valetini.

Subs: Connal McInerney, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Will Skelton, Pete Samu, Tate McDermott, Kurtley Beale, Izaia Perese.

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