Rugby World Cup 2015

No waltz against Scots

Michael Cheika has told his Australia squad (in training) to expect "a lot of pain" and that Scotland represent their toughest challenge so far.
Michael Cheika has told his Australia squad (in training) to expect "a lot of pain" and that Scotland represent their toughest challenge so far.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Coach Cheika expects a bruising battle with Scotland, who have upset the Wallabies previously

LONDON • Australia will need all their experience and character for a "tough and painful" encounter with Scotland in the World Cup quarter-finals today, according to coach Michael Cheika.

The Wallabies will be seeking a third successive superb performance at Twickenham, hosts England's headquarters, where they have shown their armoury to two different sides.

"It's a match that's going to be tough and painful, physical and difficult," said Cheika who, nevertheless, has a side packed with experience. They include two new Test centurions in centre Matt Giteau and captain Stephen Moore.

A fortnight ago, orchestrated by fly-half Bernard Foley, Australia's rapier offence cut the English to ribbons in a 33-13 victory.

A week later, they produced a remarkable backs-to-the wall defensive display to repel a Welsh onslaught - despite being two men down for around 10 minutes - and ran out 15-6 winners.

Now, the Wallabies - without two influential but injured players in full-back Israel Folau and No. 8 David Pocock - must confront a Scotland side who are improving fast under Kiwi coach Vern Cotter.

  • Australia v Scotland: Key battles

  • HALF-BACKS WILL GENIA AND BERNARD FOLEY (AUS) v GREIG LAIDLAW/FINN RUSSELL (SCO)

    Foley has been impeccable. While the fly-half may not like his nickname "Iceman", even coach Michael Cheika has admiration for his coolness under pressure.

    His partnership with Genia is, according to the experienced scrum-half, developing nicely although it is Genia who may be the weak link now.

    Fly-half Russell and captain and scrum-half Laidlaw are a burgeoning partnership - maybe at last one worthy of the skipper's uncle Roy Laidlaw and John Rutherford in the 1980s.

    Russell, who capped an excellent display against Japan in scoring a try on his 23rd birthday, is growing in stature and Laidlaw's experience and superb kicking make them a formidable pair.


    WALLABY BACK ROW v SCOTLAND BACK ROW

    The loss of the superb David Pocock robs the Wallabies of a key asset but also a meeting of two Zimbabwe-born No. 8s as the Scots have David Denton.

    Michael Hooper returns for Australia after a one-week ban as the replacement for Pocock.

    Ben McCalman is regarded very highly while Scott Fardy is the unsung hero of the trio.

    However, in New Zealand-born John Hardie, Scotland coach Vern Cotter's controversial choice, the side have a superb flanker as he showed against Japan and in the 36-33 thriller against Samoa last Saturday.

    He scored a try in both matches.

    The third member, another Kiwi, Blair Cowan, has seized his chance after being called up as an injury replacement.

    It could be the most enthralling scrap of the match.


    FULL-BACK KURTLEY BEALE (AUS) v STUART HOGG (SCO)

    Beale is an example of how well Cheika has turned things round for Australia. There was never any doubt about his talent, it was just his off-field peccadillos that threatened to destroy his career.

    But there has not been a hint of trouble at the tournament and, with the injury to Israel Folau, perhaps it is the 26-year-old's time to shine.

    Hogg is one of Scotland's most potent attacking threats, bursting into the line at speed and he did this to superb effect against Japan and Samoa. The 23-year-old is a top talent and has thrived under the guidance of Cotter.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

"There's going to be a lot of moments when we are going to be under pressure and that character is what's required at that time to help you," said Cheika.

"Our goal is to improve on our performance against Wales. There's a lot of areas where we can."

He said the Scots would represent the toughest challenge yet.

"One hundred per cent yes, this will be the most difficult game we play and that's not disrespecting our other opponents at all because every match has been tough but this will be the toughest," said the 48-year-old coach.

"There's going to be a lot of pain, it's going to be physical and I want the players to enjoy that as well because that's when it's worth it."

Wing Adam Ashley-Cooper, who will become the third most capped Wallaby today with 112 caps, knows not to take the Scots for granted as he twice finished on the losing side.

Greig Laidlaw, now the Scotland skipper, kicked all their points in a 12-6 victory in appalling weather conditions in Newcastle in Australia in 2012.

And a missed Giteau conversion proved the difference in a 9-8 defeat at Murrayfield in 2009 - their first loss to the Scots since 1982.

"I was on the bench in 2012 and we didn't turn up that day," said Ashley-Cooper. "If you don't turn up, you can get burnt."

The Scots have been weakened through hooker Ross Ford and lock Jonny Gray, who are banned for three weeks.

However, in the half-back partnership of Laidlaw and Finn Russell, the back row of Kiwi duo John Hardie and Blair Cowan and Zimbabwe-born David Denton and renowned finisher Tommy Seymour, the Scots possess weapons to hurt the Wallabies.

"Australia had the performance of the tournament against England but we have a game plan that we think will keep us in the game," said Laidlaw. "We're not going there just to make up the numbers."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


AUSTRALIA V SCOTLAND

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2015, with the headline 'NO WALTZ AGAINST SCOTS'. Print Edition | Subscribe