Scotland v Australia | Saturday 23 November | Murrayfield, Edinburgh | 20:00
A lot can change in a week. I am sure I was not alone in thinking that Scotland’s toughest test of what the Northerners call the ‘Autumn International Series’ was to take place last Sunday against the Springboks. Now I am not so sure. Having watched how a miraculously rejuvenated Wallaby side put Ireland to the sword at their sacred Lansdowne Road, just a week after Ewen McKenzie’s charges smashed seven tries through an ineffective Italian defence, it would seem Scotland are in for a brutal battering this Saturday. While the home side will still be smarting from Sunday’s sacrilegious 28-0 drubbing, they cannot allow themselves to wallow in self pity. The Scots are a proud people, and their national rugby side has shown before just how effectively it can bounce back from a telling defeat. South African fans will remember only too well how Scotland defeated the odds back in 2010 to bring down the touring Boks, just a week after being on the receiving end of an All Black blitzkrieg.
To Win (80mins)
Scotland (+11.5) 9/10
Australia (-11.5) 9/10
While it would be great for stories around the campfires in the Scottish highlands, the chances of coming from behind against one of the strong Southern unions this season seems even less likely now with Scotland having picked up an unprecedented eleven injuries last week during their brutal loss to the physical South Africans. Scott Johnson has gone with a slightly unorthodox approach to the releasing of his starting side, naming the forward pack on its own as he still tinkers with ideas for combinations in his backline best suited to thwart the Aussie’s lethal attack. Skipper Kelly Brown returns to the back three to join up with Dave Denton and Johnnie Beattie. Prop Ryan Grant and lock Tim Swinson make their back into the starting lineup in place of Alasdair Dickinson and Richie Gray, and lock Jim Hamilton will be celebrating his 50th cap for his national side.
VERDICT: Scotland (+11.5) 9/10
If I was braver, or perhaps more foolish, I would throw all my money on a Scotland outright victory at 37/10. The Aussies have come a long way on this tour from their opening round defeat to England a few weeks back. But it is foolish to judge a team’s progress by a clash with Italy, who tend to be inconsistent at the best of times. For me, Ireland was to be the true gauge of how far the Aussies have come since their new coach took over at the end of that forgettable British and Irish Lions fiasco, but Ireland were particularly poor last week. Now with several players in hot water over their European pub tour antics it seems they have only crippled their own chances this week against a bruised Scotland. Neither side is at its best, but I think Scotland have a better shot at remaining composed in the circumstances. It should be close. The Aussies by 7.
Think we've got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this is going to play out.