Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend is braced for a formidable test against Australia on Saturday and dismissed any suggestion that the Wallabies are a team in crisis.
Dave Rennie’s side have won only three of their last 12 matches over the past year, a run that began when they lost 15-13 to the Scots at BT Murrayfield last November.
Townsend is adamant the Aussies are not to be taken lightly when they return to Edinburgh this weekend, however.
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“We’re aware of the strengths Australia bring,” he said. “I was in Melbourne last month watching them against New Zealand. They lost (39-37) in the last seconds of that game after a brilliant comeback.
“Although they’ve not won as many games as they’d have liked, they’ve shown their quality enough times over the summer to be positive about their northern hemisphere tour.”
The Scots go into this weekend’s opening autumn Test buoyed by the knowledge they have won their last three meetings with Australia.
“They were all different games, against different coaches as well,” said Townsend. “Last year’s game is the most relevant (to this one) because it was the same coaching staff.
“It was a very tight game, they played well and had come off the back of beating South Africa just before they played us. They also beat South Africa this summer, so they’re a quality team.
“We know Dave Rennie really well and he’s always had an attacking philosophy. It will be a big test for us, but we have some continuity from the summer tour even though we’re not able to select players who play outside Scotland. A lot of this 23 were involved in the Argentina Tests.”
Scotland have had an underwhelming 2022 so far, but Townsend is hoping the fact seven of their next nine matches are at Murrayfield can help them generate momentum ahead of the World Cup next year.
“We know that playing for Scotland is about inspiring our nation and the best way to do that is winning games,” said the head coach. “We’ve got a lot of home games coming up over the next 12 months and our next four games are at home, so the energy we’ll get off the crowd by playing well can drive us through to have success over the next few weeks.”
Townsend is excited about the possibility of giving Jack Dempsey – who won 14 caps for Australia – his debut off the bench against his nation of birth on Saturday after he took advantage of a recent change in World Rugby’s eligibility rules to pledge his allegiance to Scotland.
“There’s a lot of information to take on board when you’re new to a team, but he’s adapted well,” said Townsend. “He’s already proved he’s got the game to thrive at international level and we believe he’s got the game that can really thrive for us.
“He’s played very well for Glasgow and we want to see his strengths when he comes on. We have lots of players that come from different backgrounds and Jack is part of that inclusive, diverse group we have and we can’t wait to see how he does for us.”
Townsend downplayed any possibility of Finn Russell – a surprise omission from the initial squad amid ongoing friction with the head coach – being recalled to the fold on the back of his impressive display for Racing 92 last weekend.
Asked if the door was still open to the fly-half, Townsend said: “Yes, of course. The door is not closed on any player. There are opportunities that come through injury, as Glen Young has grabbed this week, or through form of players.”