After an eventful week, Australia boss Michael Cheika chose not to face the media again yesterday, delegating to defence coach Nathan Grey, who said the Wallabies were ready for a fierce examination by Scotland this afternoon.
After the training ground woes on Tuesday and then a disciplinary investigation into his conduct at Twickenham last Saturday, in which Cheika was fully cleared, it was former Wallabies centre Grey who appeared after the Aussies’ final session at BT Murrayfield, insisting “we’re here to play the game and that’s what we’re focusing on”.
Grey didn’t spring any surprises when asked to identify the main attacking threats from the home team. “Obviously Stuart Hogg at the back and Finn Russell defending the back field there,” he said. “If you provide them with any turnover ball or unstructured opportunities they are exceptional at, one, finding space with their feet but also identifying poor defensive lapses in our line and being able to capitalise on that.
“Finn backs himself to carry through a whole team, he’s a very skilful player.”
Grey believes that Scotland, who won the last meeting of the nations in Sydney almost six months ago, are a side who are continuing on an upward trajectory under Gregor Townsend.
“I think it’s a continuation of the good work he was doing at Glasgow,” said Grey. “I know Gregor, he’s a great guy. He’s a really good character and I know he’ll have his team well primed around how they want to play, how they want to execute their gameplan and really backing his own players to do that.”
Asked if that Sydney loss had been a wake-up call to Australian rugby, Grey replied: “It just highlighted a lot of weaknesses in our game. I would not say it was a jolt.
“It was a great learning experience for us but feels so long ago, even though it wasn’t.”
Grey paid tribute to hooker Stephen Moore who will win his 129th cap to round off his distinguished Wallabies career. “Yeah, his 400th Test,” said Grey with a smile. “He is a really great example of what rugby is all about. He is in the group at the moment and is the elder statesman.
“It is interesting to see him sit down at meal time and chat with the others. Sometime the music choices are above his head!
“He is a very good example to our younger players and new guys coming through.”
It may be more Baltic than Bondi in Edinburgh this weekend but Grey said that was one of the joys of travelling the world to play rugby.
“The guys are outwith their comfort zone,” he said. “You have to be able to perform in 25 degrees in Sydney on a June afternoon or in Scotland on a November afternoon in zero.”