Australia host Scotland tonight as the Wallabies look to make a good start the 2012 Test season. Newcastle hosts it’s first ever rugby Test match and we’ll have live commentary and scores of the match from 7.30pm AEST tonight.
The timing of this match, which takes place four days before the first Test against Wales, says a lot about the ARU and John O’Neill’s eagerness to leave the game with a bank surplus.
Nonetheless, it is a fully fledged Test match and the Wallabies will be punished if they don’t treat it as one.
Robbie Deans has named a slightly re-jigged team to take the field. The missing in action include, Kurtley Beale (shoulder), James O’Connor (liver – not the drinking this time though) and James Horwill (hamstring).
Other incumbent Wallabies such as Rocky Elsom, Quade Cooper and Dan Vickerman haven’t been able to make meaningful headway all year and weren’t picked for various reasons.
These omissions, and one eye on Wales, have caused things to be moved around a little. Joe Tomane, Mike Harris, Dave Dennis and Luke Morahan will get their first caps in the run on side. Michael Hooper will earn his debut cap if he comes off the bench as well.
The very inexperienced Sitaleki Timani will pair the not-recently-used Nathan Shape in the second row. The Scots will try to exploit this area.
One place viewers might spend some time focusing is the Wallabies back-row. David Pocock is captaining the side for the first time from his customary open-side position. Scott Higginbotham is at number 8 and Dennis at blind-side will accompany him.
If there are fears among Australia fans that Scotland can execute an ambush, it might be this trio that control the pace of the game and contact areas for the home side. They could be the most athletic and rangy group of back-rowers Australia can put on the park.
Without a doubt, Palu is being held back to play Wales, but these three will play together in gold more than once. There is too much talent and continued improvement in them not to.
Deans’ first contentious decision of the year was to award Berrick Barnes the fly-half jersey. This is not new for Barnes as he has been closely monitored by disgruntled Waratahs fans all year.
His job will be to give front-foot service to the phalanx of Queensland Reds outside him in the backs division. If he can simply give them some space to work in, most onlookers will view that as a success with the amount of preparation time available.
Scotland didn’t have a good time of it in the Six Nations this year, and were whitewashed. They haven’t successfully developed a playing style that allows them to win games unless they deploy their side in a spoiling role.
This is the first match Scotland will play on tour before matches against Fiji and Samoa.
The Scots did earn a win over Australia in 2008 that still features prominently in the minds of the Australian rugby public. That 9-8 affair is now the match many believe the Wallabies started treading water under Deans but haven’t really managed to begin swimming again.
Those nerves will be present and will need to be overcome for the men in Gold to successfully move on from this hit and run mission.
Log on The Roar from 7.30pm AEST for all the scores, banter, live commentary you can handle as the Wallabies take on Scotland.