WOLLOGONG, AUSTRALIA – A somewhat resurgent Wallabies squad makes the short trip across the Irish Sea to Edinburgh this weekend to take on hosts Scotland in what in recent years has proven a fixture that the Scots have had the wood on the tourists.
Only last year in torrid conditions in Newcastle, New South Wales (about two hours north of Sydney), in the pair’s previous meeting, did the Scottish emerge victorious in a game that unfortunately matched the dismal weather conditions. It’s become a game Wallaby fans have come to hesitantly anticipate and dread. Fortunately, a year is a very long time in Rugby and over the past fortnight the much maligned tourists have begun to show the style and finesse demanded by the Ewen MacKenzie lead coaching staff since they took over from the very contentious Robbie Deans era. Only a fortnight ago, my assessment of the chances heading into their clash with Italy was less than confident or assured but the form displayed by the squad and in particular the pack in the past two games against a strong Italian scrum and an Irish pack that many fancied over the supposed inferior Wallaby eight has lightened the mood somewhat and seen the emergence of the light at the end of what has felt at times to be a never ending tunnel.
I’ve got to be honest here, I don’t know a great deal about the Scots but I do know they face a very different Wallaby team. Well, they were going to face a very different Wallaby team. The team that ran out in that cold, wet evening in June last year was essentially Australia A and due to injury, suspension and a night out on the town that no less than 15 of the squad have been reprimanded with 6 to be sat out for this clash. The Scots have again the ideal opportunity to topple yet another under-strength Wallaby squad.
However… Do I think they will?
No. Not this time . The Wallabies would probably have to be the worst wet weather team at this level in world rugby and it’s no coincidence that the past two meetings between the two that have resulted in Scottish victories happened to be played in the wet. As long as the weather holds the Wallabies should have too much run for a Scottish squad that really hasn’t shown all that much in the past year. But only if the weather holds.
The key once again will be whether or not the Wallaby pack can assert dominance over their opponents and fortunately, the suspensions – with the exception of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Nick Cummins – lean toward reserves instead of starters. If the pack can do its job to the level needed, the replacements that have been drafted in should be able to execute the game plan for a comfortable 10-15 point victory.
For the Scots, the name of the game will be to spoil and slow the Wallabies ball – something they have managed to succeed at in the past two meetings. If they succeed and engineer this ruck into a muddy dogfight, then their chances of once again breaking the hearts of the Wallaby devouted, who (including me) will be dragging themselves out of their warm beds very early on Sunday morning.
The bookmakers seem to believe the Scots are red-hot favourites, perhaps they’ve been listening to the weather reports and are predicting another not-so-shocking defeat for the boy’s in Wallaby Gold.
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