Autumn Internationals Preview: Scotland
Ok, so the Lions is now nothing but a distant memory, seasons are in full flow, and the 6 Nations is looming large in the background. But before we get there, we’ve got the Autumn Internationals.
Great for blooding new players, phasing out oldies, and *ahem* confirming eligibility, the November Internationals are always entertaining to watch.
There are some cracking games lined up this year and we’re going to be here throughout. In the build-up we’ll previewing each team’s upcoming games.
First up we’ve got the Scots.
Scotland’s Autumn International squad
Ok, so first of all what of the squad?
The squad announced is an interesting one. Plagued by some high profile injuries and absentees, Townsend has gone for a host of uncapped players.
The current casualty list is long and makes for unpleasant reading from a Scottish perspective. With Sean Maitland, Duncan Taylor, Richie Gray, Adam Ashe, and Matt Scott joining captain Laidlaw and record cap holder Ross Ford on the sidelines.
A daunting list for any side, but there is no room for self-pity here. This is a massive test of this Scottish side’s ability and they’ll be eager to prove a point.
As we’ve known for the last few years, this is a Scottish team on the continued rise. They have the ability of play some cracking attacking rugby and the return of Stuart Hogg to full fitness can only be a good thing for this.
As for the new caps, this is exactly what the Autumn games are for. There’s no sense waiting until the 6 Nations to start handing out caps. Games in February will most likely be tight cagey affairs. This is the perfect setting.
And let’s not forget that the World Cup is creeping ever closer. Players are starting to think about it and a solid performance over the next few weeks can help establish players in the squad moving into 2018.
And so to the teams that they’ll face. Samoa, New Zealand and the Australia. No mean feat. First up is the Samoans.
Scotland v Samoa
The last time these two met was actually remarkably close. It came in the 2015 World Cup and ended with a narrow 36-33 win for the Scots. And they can count themselves lucky for that. They trailed at half time and were generally second best throughout the affair.
It’s easy to write this Samoan outfit off as a big side and nothing more. Scotland will do so at their peril. While physicality is a big part of the Islanders’ game it’s not the only weapon they possess. They boast an extremely agile and athletic squad. As always, they’ll look to take the game to Scotland up front and take advantage of a fatigued pack.
Smart money, however, is on a Scottish win. Barring an upset, Scotland will look to move away from the weekend with a solid win and some much needed international game time for new caps and the likes of the returning Stuart Hogg.
Hogg, who last played for Scotland in last year’s 6 Nations has just returned from injury and seems to be heading in the right direction. Two scores in his previous two games indicate he’s beginning to hit his stride.
And he’s not the only one. This year will see a cap earned for the Premiership’s joint highest tryscorer, Byron McGuigan. A truly exciting player, McGuigan will be itching to get on the field.
Scotland V New Zealand
With no disrespect to Samoa, you feel the test really begins the following week with the All Blacks visiting Murrayfield. The last meeting between Scotland and the All Blacks came in November 2014, and it’s been quite the journey since.
New Zealand’s progress speaks for itself, there’s no denying they remain the team to beat in world rugby. Scotland will have to be at their all-time best to get a result here.
It’s a difficult and ultimately unlikely task. They simply won’t have the squad to deal with the infamous second-half push from the All Blacks.
But, it will be hard fought. This is an exciting and attacking Scotland squad. Lions Hogg and Seymour will be raring to get a crack at the All Blacks after missing out on the summer tour – Hogg in particular after injury cruelly ended his tour.
As the smart money weighed in Scotland’s favour v Samoa, it must rest with the All Blacks here.
So, this brings us to the third and final test – Australia.
Scotland v Australia
Now, this is Scotland’s most intriguing game. They have a real chance here. They’ll obviously be buoyed after their summer win and they can certainly target another here. They meet the Wallabies last, hoping they’ve been sizably roughed up by both England and Wales.
The Wallabies are coming off a nail biting win over the All Blacks as well as a trouncing of Japan last week. Their scrum, which displayed wonderful dominance throughout the Rugby Championship, is a vital weapon in the Australian arsenal. From this base, they’ll look to unleash a fearsome backline that is beginning to take shape with Bernard Foley and Will Genia likely to come back into the squad for their trip to Wales. This is a huge test for this Scottish team.
We expect a tight affair and we’re banking on Scotland just nicking it.
There is an established air of optimism around Scottish rugby. They come into this Autumn series hoping some dominant domestic performances will transfer to the international stage. With their own brand of fast attacking rugby, they’ll fear no team, and rightly so.
Series Result: 2/3
Scotland v Samoa – Scotland Win
Scotland v New Zealand – New Zealand Win
Scotland v Australia – Scotland Win