Scotland clash will define Wallabies class of ’17

Jack Quigley Columnist

By , Jack Quigley is a Roar Expert

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    The Wallabies’ 2017 record will likely be shaped by what unfolds at Murrayfield on Saturday night.

    While there is no great danger of this being a season fondly remembered by Wallabies fans, a good result against Scotland would probably be enough to ensure it was recalled as ‘eventful’ rather than disappointing.

    Scotland are no mugs, as Australia found out in Sydney. A second-gear effort will not get the job done against them, as even the All Blacks came close to suffering defeat at Murrayfield last week.

    The Wallabies were poor in many areas against England but were able to keep the contest close for a long time thanks to their defence – the alarming thing for Michael Cheika is the manner in which Australia fell away late.

    Cheika was the man who started the new fashion of referring to the substitutes as ‘finishers’, implying that far from plugging gaps left by injuries, the bench had a crucial role to play in getting the 80-minute job done.

    Last weekend, England’s finishers took the pace of the game up a notch against a tiring Wallabies side and took the game away from them, even if the final score flattered the home side a little.

    Australia’s replacements struggled to make any impact at Twickenham and Cheika’s use of them was simply confusing.

    Ben McCalman was introduced too early and was unable overpower his opponents because they weren’t tired yet. But he had to be brought on because once again Ned Hanigan was exposed as too lightweight for Test rugby – which every Wallabies fan could have told you would happen before kick-off.

    Cheika loves backing his players and that’s part of why players will run through walls for him, but his persistence with Hanigan is just downright frustrating.

    Samu Kerevi was the only player along the backline who looked like causing England any problems last weekend, even if it did take him a while to get going. It was baffling then to see him hooked in favour of Karmichael Hunt just as he appeared to be hitting top gear.

    Stephen Moore quite literally just got in the way and, while Will Genia had a poor game, I’d rather a tired Genia steer my side home than a fresh and frantic Nick Phipps.

    2017 has been a year of slow, but untimely steady progress for Australia. Much like the Rugby Championship, where the only losses came at the hands of New Zealand, there would be no shame in a European tour where the only loss came against England.

    However, a loss on Saturday night would change the outlook slightly. In a year where the Wallabies finally found a way to overcome the All Blacks, it would be so Michael Cheika-era to bookend that season with two losses to Scotland.

    Cheika’s backers will be hoping the Wallabies can account for the Scots on Saturday so that 2017 can be filed as ‘unspectacular progress’, while his critics will be waiting in the wings ready to call for the coach’s head in the event that Australia lose again.

    Given how the year has panned out so far, don’t be surprised if it finishes as a draw – leaving both sides somewhat unsatisfied.

    Jack Quigley
    Jack Quigley

    A long time sports writer and podcaster, Jack has spent the majority of his media career covering football and rugby. He recently joined The Roar on the back of penning a viral Facebook rant aimed at the Wallabies which attracted 60,000 likes and more than 6,000 shares. You can follow him on Twitter @Jack_Quigley.