Scotland v Australia: Defence coach Steve Tandy calls on Scotland to summon the spirit of Six Nations wins over England and France
Defence coach Steve Tandy reckons it will take a performance akin to the ones Scotland produced against England and France this year if they are to beat Australia on Sunday.
The Wallabies visit Murrayfield on the back of a five-match winning run which comprised two victories over the world champion Springboks, two against Argentina and one in Japan.
Tandy has identified “game-breakers throughout the team” but is confident Scotland have a strong enough defence to cope with the threat posed by Dave Rennie’s side.
The Scots opened their Autumn Nations Series with a thumping 60-14 win over an under-strength Tonga but that match is likely to bear little resemblance to this weekend’s encounter. The home side will be bolstered by the return of their exiles, with Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell et al rejoining the squad this week.
“I think it’ll be an outstanding Test match,” said Tandy. “It’s exciting to play a team like Australia on the run they’re on, having won five games. They beat South Africa, played some really good stuff against New Zealand and they’re up to third in the world.
“We’ve seen the style they play and they play some really good football. I think they’re averaging 30 points and three tries a game, so we know we’re going to be really tested. But we did really well in the Six Nations defensively and we know we’ll have to be on point.
“Beating the world champions twice is an outstanding achievement. That’s why coming into the weekend, we know we’ll have to be on the money, where we were in the Six Nations beating France and England. We know we have to perform but we do believe in ourselves.
“We’re going to have to be on our ‘A’ game defensively. They off-load ball out of contact very well.
“I think they’ve got game breakers right throughout the team. We don’t know exactly what team they’ll play. But as a collective they’re really performing. The lineout has been operating really well and they have a style with lots of passes, lots of offloads. They’re a threat right across the team.”
Scotland’s record against the Wallabies has been more than decent in recent years and Gregor Townsend is aiming for a hat-trick of wins after guiding the side to victories in Sydney and Edinburgh in 2017.
Tandy knows a lot of water has flowed under the bridge since those games but appreciates they can help generate confidence in the group.
“You can look at history, but it’s about Sunday,” he said. “What’s gone is gone. It’s about us playing at Murrayfield in front of a full house, setting the tone about how we want to play the game.
“Belief is growing in our performances. It’s a good record and there’s been some outstanding wins over Australia. When we play, we believe in our style and how we undertake it. It’s about getting back in that rhythm again. We knocked off a few milestones, beating England at Twickenham, winning in Paris, beating Wales away from home. That all hadn’t happened in a long time, and it’s built confidence. But we know it’s another huge Test match for us and we’re looking to knock another over on Saturday.”
Scotland will face the Wallabies without Rory Sutherland who is suffering from an oblique muscle injury, more commonly known as a side strain. The prognosis on the Lions prop is not terribly encouraging with Tandy expecting him to miss the remainder of the autumn series along with the uncapped Rory Darge, who has an ankle injury.
In Sutherland’s absence, Pierre Schoeman looks likely to retain the No 1 jersey he wore on his Test debut against Tonga, although Jamie Bhatti will also stake a claim.
Scotland summoned reinforcements yesterday by calling up three uncapped props. Two of them are looseheads - Northampton’s Nick Auterac and Wasps’ Robin Hislop - and they are joined by Scarlets tighthead Javan Sebastian. All three were in Scotland’s summer squad for the tour that never happened and are experienced club men in their mid to late 20s.
Auterac, 28, is a former England Under-20 international who qualifies through his Scottish grandmother. He moved to Northampton in January from Harlequins.
Hislop was capped by Scotland at under-20 level all of 11 years ago. Dumfries-born and Langholm-raised, the 29-year-old is currently with Wasps after serving his time with Hawick Wanderers, Ayr, Edinburgh, Rotherham, Doncaster Knights, and Saracens.
Sebastian, meanwhile, is a former Wales under-18 international, who qualifies through his Edinburgh-born father. The 27-year-old had a spell at Glasgow Warriors on a partnership contract in the 2015-16 season and was farmed out to Ayr.
“There’s real quality in the guys we’re bringing in,” said Tandy. None has the experience of Sutherland, however, but Tandy is confident Schoeman can step up.
“[Losing] someone like Rory who has been in the environment of the Lions tour and with Scotland is a blow for us, but Schoey came in and played well at the weekend, Jamie Bhatti came off the bench and did well, Robin Hislop has been playing lots of minutes for Wasps, and Nick [Auterac] too,” added the coach. “There’s plenty of depth there and we have [Oli] Kebble as well on the other side.”
Australia have also lost players, with Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi and Sean McMahon all returning to their clubs in Japan. The trio’s decision not to come to Europe has caused ructions back home, particularly the absence of the rejuvenated Cooper, but Tandy thinks the Wallabies have enough strength to compensate.
“Quade Cooper’s played really well but they’ve got depth,” said the defence expert. “I think James O’Connor’s back and again they have experience right across the team. Everyone’s missing boys, we are as well, and in international rugby it’s all about depth and anyone who gets the jersey, they’re going to give their all.”
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