The Wallabies head to Murrayfield on Sunday morning (1:30am AEDT) to round off their Spring Tour against Scotland.
The match serves as Stephen Moore’s farewell from the international arena, while it’s also a chance to finish the year on a high after the disappointing result against England.
Speaking of which, the 30-6 loss at Twickenham was a rude awakening for Michael Cheika’s men, who will be desperate to bounce back quickly.
Scotland will provide a stern test, however, having kept pace with the All Blacks last week, ultimately going down 17-22.
Cheika has opted to start Moore for his final outing in gold at the expense of the impressive Tatafu Polota-Nau. The only other starting change is Ben McCalman at 6 in place of the injured Ned Hanigan.
The big news for Australia is the inclusion of Taniela Tupou on the bench. The 21-year-old is set for his debut after fulfilling the three-year residency requirement.
Sidenote: can someone please take this opportunity to come up with a better nickname than the painfully overused ‘Tongan Thor’ moniker?
Tetera Faulkner is also among the subs. Even more heartening for Aussies fans is the return of Lukhan Tui who has recovered from a hamstring injury. Blake Enever retains his starting spot.
For Scotland, coach Gregor Townsend makes four changes to the team that faced New Zealand. Up front, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, and Ryan Wilson join the pack, relegating Zander Fagerson, Ben Toolis, and Cornell du Preez respectively to the bench.
Former Crusader Sean Maitland starts on the wing. Meanwhile, the home side are still without their talismanic skipper Greg Laidlaw due to a broken leg.
1. Scott Sio 2. Stephen Moore 3. Sekope Kepu 4. Rob Simmons 5. Blake Enever 6. Ben McCalman 7. Michael Hooper 8. Sean McMahon 9. Will Genia 10. Bernard Foley 11. Reece Hodge 12. Samu Kerevi 13. Tevita Kuridrani 14. Marika Koroibete 15. Kurtley Beale.
Subs: 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau 17. Tetera Faulkner 18. Taniela Tupou 19. Lukhan Tui 20. Lopeti Timani 21. Nick Phipps 22. Karmichael Hunt 23. Henry Speight.
1. Darryl Marfo 2. Stuart McInally 3. Simon Berghan 4. Grant Gilchrist 5. Jonny Gray 6. John Barclay (c) 7. Hamish Watson 8. Ryan Wilson 9. Ali Price 10. Finn Russell 11. Sean Maitland 12. Alex Dunbar 13. Huw Jones 14. Tommy Seymour 15. Stuart Hogg.
Subs: 16. Fraser Brown 17. Jamie Bhatti 18. Zander Fagerson 19. Ben Toolis 20. Cornell Du Preez 21. Henry Pyrgos 22. Pete Horne 23. Byron McGuigan.
It’s been an up and down year for the Scots. They’ve beaten Ireland, Wales, and Australia. But they lost to Fiji, got dominated by England, and only just snuck past Samoa a few weeks ago.
While Scotland’s form might be hard to read, what’s clear is that they’ve been more than a handful for the Wallabies in recent times, including their 24-19 triumph in June.
The selection of Moore is an interesting one. It’s a show of sentimentality that one wouldn’t normally expect from Cheika. Of course, he’d probably tell you it’s on merit, but Polota-Nau has been one of the tour’s stronger performers. If anything it might shore up the lineout, while sacrificing stability at scrum time.
We know Scotland have enough weapons to hurt the Wallabies, so nothing should come as a surprise. As always, the set piece, discipline, and backline cohesion are the areas of concern for Australia. Take care of those, and the result should take care of itself. Should.
Wallabies to win by 6.