Scotland v Australia: James Slipper on Aussie indiscipline, poor record and ‘odd’ Jack Dempsey situation

Australia swapped the warmth of Saint-Etienne for the light drizzle of Peffermill yesterday as they trained in Edinburgh ahead of the opening match of their European tour.

Australia captain James Slipper, left, with coach Dave Rennie during a training session at Peffermill in Edinburgh. (Picture: Paul Devlin - SNS Group)
Australia captain James Slipper, left, with coach Dave Rennie during a training session at Peffermill in Edinburgh. (Picture: Paul Devlin - SNS Group)

The Wallabies are basing themselves close to the French city for the duration of the five-Test series and parachuting in for the games against Scotland, France, Italy, Ireland and Wales. It will also be their HQ for the Rugby World Cup and there is a sense that the preparations have now begun in earnest for next year’s tournament.

Australia, two-time winners, have slipped off the pace in recent years. They were comprehensively beaten by England in the quarter-finals in Japan in 2019 and have now fallen to a lowly ninth in the world rankings. Grant Gilchrist warned this week that it was a false position but the Aussies have also struggled to overcome Scotland, losing three in a row against Gregor Townsend's side. James Slipper, the Wallabies captain, described the record as “not ideal” but there is a determination to make ammends at Murrayfield on Saturday.

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“We’re coming up against a very good Scottish team,” said Slipper, who played in last season’s 15-13 defeat in Edinburgh. “They’ve knocked us off in the last three games so we know what’s coming. Last year was really disappointing. It was a tough game. We had chances to win but we weren’t good enough on the day. There was a lot of disappointment in the changing room last year and we’ve come here knowing it will be another hard game. It’s about creating opportunities and then taking them. That’s key this week.”

James Slipper tries to stop Scotland's Stuart Hogg during last year's Autumn Nations Series match at Murrayfield. Scotland won 15-13. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Aussie ill discipline was a factor in last year’s match but Slipper is confident they can cut the penalty count this time. “It is a simple fix. It’s the penalties that you can control. So taking the ref out of it, it’s your simple offsides, your lazy work off the ground, that’s the sort of stuff we can control. It’s an area of the game we need to be better in if we’re going to win Test matches. They come down to the wire and teams can easily go three, six, nine points up on you.”

Slipper played alongside Jack Dempsey at the last World Cup but now finds himself in opposition to the No 8 who has taken advantage of a change to eligibility regulations to switch to Scotland after three years in the international wilderness. Slipper admitted it was a slightly strange situation. “I don’t think I’ve actually seen it before,” said the prop. “It’s interesting and I guess it adds a bit of spice to the game. There’s actually quite a few of his Sydney mates in the team who will be going after him!

“It’s good to see the big fella back in the international arena. It’s actually quite odd to see him playing for Scotland but I’m sure he’s excited to play against his old team. He’s tough, he’s a tough player. He’s obviously a back-rower so he’s got that bit of X-factor about his game. He’s hard on the ball, good in the set-piece, he’s the type of player you can put out there and you’ve got confidence he’ll do a job for you. Hopefully he doesn’t go too well at the weekend.”

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