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Scotland host in-form Australia in the Autumn Nations Series on Sunday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the talking points ahead of the game at Murrayfield.
Rust could be a factor
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 5, 2021
The cancellation of the summer Tests due to coronavirus means Scotland have played only one match since defeating France in the Six Nations in March. As emphatic as their 60-14 win over Tonga last weekend was, Gregor Townsend’s team were not overly tested by limited opponents. Australia, by contrast, have played 11 matches since July. The Wallabies, who have won their last five in a row, look well equipped to capitalise on any rustiness in the Scottish ranks.
Harnessing spirit of Paris
Townsend has named 14 of the 15 players who started the game against France. Although more than seven months have elapsed since that historic victory in Paris, the head coach is clearly keen to give the same players a chance to build some momentum together. It would be quite a feat – and would do wonders for morale – if largely the same team was able to follow up the triumph in France with victory over another heavyweight of world rugby.
Steyn edged out
While Townsend’s decision to restore his big-hitters to the mix is understandable, it is also hard not to feel some sympathy for the six players who have been edged out of the team that took Tonga apart last weekend. Kyle Steyn in particular is entitled to feel a degree of disappointment at not getting the chance to build on his historic four-try haul from that match, although he can at least console himself with the likelihood that he should see some game time from the bench.
A long-awaited box-office afternoon beckons for Scottish rugby as Murrayfield prepares to host its first sell-out crowd in 20 months. Although Scotland enjoyed some big wins over England and France in the last Six Nations, the absence of supporters due to Covid restrictions undoubtedly detracted from the sense of occasion. While the 32,000 people at the Tonga game last weekend enjoyed themselves, the prospect of more than double that number in attendance to see Scotland hosting a team ranked third in the world is a exciting prospect.
Schoeman’s big chance
Of the debutants from last weekend’s match, Pierre Schoeman is the only one to keep his place. Although this is in part down to an injury to Rory Sutherland, it represents a big opportunity for the South Africa-born Edinburgh prop to show he can hold his own in Scotland’s strongest XV. Schoeman has been in good form at club level recently and after scoring a try on his Scotland debut, the 27-year-old goes into Sunday’s match in the best possible fettle.