Henry Pyrgos of Scotland in action during the Test match between Italy and Scotland at Singapore Sports Stadium.
Henry Pyrgos of Scotland in action during the Test match between Italy and Scotland at Singapore Sports Stadium. Suhaimi Abdullah

Wallabies can't under-estimate improving Scots

BEWARE the Scots.

They're three words not often thrown about in these parts but that should be a loud-and-clear message to the Wallabies and any over-confident Australian supporters this week.

It is a warning based on three things: recent results between two teams, a regeneration of Scottish rugby and the nearby Lions tour.

Scotland arrive in Sydney on Sunday night with a low profile and no pressure on their shoulders.

With the Lions tour on in New Zealand, home nations minus their stars are touring around the globe and are happy for people to misconstrue them as development tours. Scotland have been cast as Scotland-lite, but the truth is a long way from that.

As opposed to England, who had 20-plus players missing in Argentina, Scotland only got two players selected in the Lions - fullback Stuart Hogg and wing Tommy Seymour.

It was controversial and a third - halfback Greig Laidlaw - was added when Ben Youngs withdrew.

That has left the core of the Scotland team together who beat Ireland (11 Lions) Wales (12 Lions) in an impressive Six Nations.

The Scotland team is currently ranked fifth in the world.

It can be easy sometimes to not keep sharp eyes on European rugby but Australia, of all nations, shouldn't need any reminders of how tough it is to beat Scotland.

The last time they played on Aussie soil it was THAT night in Newcastle in 2012, when cyclonic-weather and a three-day preparation was the perfect conditions for an ambush. Scotland won 9-6.

That came after Scotland turned the Wallabies over at home in 2009, too.

Since then it's been 3-0 for Australia but here are the Wallabies' victory margins: six points, one point, one point.

The middle one was the World Cup quarter-final in 2015 when a very fortunate referee decision stopped those Aussies in attendance from packing their bags for a flight home.

What makes Scotland even more dangerous is they have, in recent years, shed their dour reputation and re-built themselves into an attack-minded outfit.

When Kiwi Vern Cotter took over as head coach in June 2014, the Scots had scored an average of 1.5 tries per Test for the past decade. They'd won 37% of Tests.

When Cotter passed the baton to Gregor Townsend at the end of the Six Nations, Scotland had upped their attack to 2.5 tries a game and their win percentage to 53%.

They scored 14 tries in the Six Nations.

Gone is the kick-and-hope Scotland, whose outside backs looked confused when they got the ball.

In came livewire Finn Russell at no.10, whose millennial audacity facilitated a genuine running game.

The hard-working Scotland forwards have also proved comfortable playing at a higher pace.

Townsend, for his part, was an attacking playmaker and coaches the same way.

The fact only two Scots were picked for the Lions is a bit of a joke really, and make no mistake, a victory over Australia in Sydney would be a perfect place to shove the injustice down Warren Gatland's throat.

Or that'd be in a few people's mind, anyway.

Townsend's first Test as coach saw the Scots cruise to a win over Italy in Singapore on Saturday night.

It had good pace, good continuity and a Russell flick pass try that exemplifies the new Scotland.

The strength in contact of Scotland is also something the Wallabies have to adjust to quickly. Fiji were frenetic in Melbourne and though Australia scrambled well in defence, they didn't assert dominance in the collisions.

"Obviously, there were some tired bodies - players that haven't played for a few months were pretty tired but they stuck in," Townsend said.

"This will be of huge benefit as we look to Australia and then Fiji.

"We watched Australia play and they were outstanding.

"They're a quality side - World Cup finalists. They've always been floating around the top two, three, four in the world and they play really good, attacking rugby but they've also got an outstanding defence.

"​It's a brilliant game for us to play in but we know we have to play close to our best to win that one."

News Corp Australia


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