Iain Morrison: Wallabies issue a warning in Wales

Israel Folau is a dangerman. Picture: Getty
Israel Folau is a dangerman. Picture: Getty
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The Wallabies are playing against all four home nations (and France) in the coming few weeks so they will consider this as the first win of their Grand Slam banked.

Their record against Wales is bordering on the bizarre with 12 wins on the bounce, an odd statistic from two such closely matched teams. Scotland have beaten the Aussies in two of their last four meetings and we all remember how tight the last loss was.

If Scotland are nursing a sense of grievance from that World Cup quarter-final, Michael Cheika’s men are filthy for all sorts of reasons – being ridiculed as clowns and losing seven of their Tests this year chief amongst them.

Still, three of those losses were to England and three to New Zealand, the two best teams in the world, which goes some way to explaining the numbers.

On this form the Wallabies are not far behind the top two. We know what the Aussie backs are capable of, and we will return to them, but Scotland coach Vern Cotter must be concerned at the ease with which the gold-shirted forwards bossed this match, especially the breakdown.

Wales were barely allowed a touch of the ball in the opening quarter: after 15 minutes the home team had enjoyed exactly nine per cent of possession. In their first game of the season the men in red looked woefully under-prepared and the Scots cannot claim they have not been warned.

Australia employed a simple game plan, hit short two or three times and then attack the wider channels. It’s not rocket science but it proved more than enough on the day, with the Wallabies getting over the gain line far too easily, which is Scotland’s first challenge.

The big men also started the scoring, with a driven lineout just 11 minutes into this game. Scotland have improved their lineout defence but just how much by we will discover on Saturday because they still have the reputation of having a soft centre.

Cotter has utilised two opensides in the past and Australia reverted to that ploy yesterday with Michael Hooper and David Pocock. It worked a treat. The speed of the ball the Aussies generated at the breakdown enabled Bernard Foley to dictate terms. The stand-off likes to take the ball flat to the line, he had options either side of him and he used them brilliantly. When the Welsh rush defence flew up at the Wallaby backs Foley adapted. Three times in the opening ten minutes the fly-half employed a low-slung cross-field kick aimed at his wingers.

When Australia kept the ball in hand Israel Folau was the danger man, whether he had the ball or was utilised as a dummy runner. He is not only a danger with the ball in hand, regularly attracting two or three Welsh defenders, but his ability to offload amongst the heaviest traffic caused no end of problems.

Scotland tend to tackle low, to ensure the man with the ball is halted, but the tactic leaves them worryingly open to the offload and Folau wasn’t the only one to employ it yesterday. Foley’s second-half try came courtesy of some smart handling from 6ft 8in lock Rory Arnold.

Right winger Dane Haylett-Perry made two howlers in the space of a few minutes and still looked comfortably better than anyone in red. The winger is excellent under the high ball, as he proved once in each half of this match.

If there were any positives from Cardiff for Cotter’s crew they probably came at the set scrum which was a no-score draw: neither team was able to dominate the other over the 80 minutes. Given Scotland’s front row woes, that passes as good news of sorts.