Hadden to turn clock back on the wobbly Wallabies
Saturday 25 November 2006
When Scotland defeated the Wallabies at the Ballymore Stadium in Brisbane on 4 July 1982, back home the front-page lead in The Scotsman read: "Jenkins beats Owen to leadership of SDP," while on Scottish Television Arthur C Clarke devoted his Mysterious World programme to dinosaurs. Twenty-four years on, the Social Democratic Party has gone the same way as the T Rex, the creature and the band, but hope remains that the phenomenon of the Scottish rugby victory against Australia has been in a state of extended dormancy rather than full-on extinction.
It has not been spotted since that day in 1982 when Andy Irvine, as captain and buccaneering full-back, inspired Scotland to a 12-7 victory. Since then, the Scots have not managed to come within 10 points of Australia, nor succeeded in restricting them to a tally of less than 27 points - shortfalls that Frank Hadden, coach of a resurgent Scotland, has been measuring ahead of today's visit to Murrayfield by the 2006 Wallabies.
"I've been looking at the record books and there's been a really long sequence of embarrassing defeats against Australia," Hadden reflected. "Having said that, we have been making steady progress and we've got to the stage now where I believe we're going into this game with a genuine opportunity to take a famous scalp."
A famous scalp, indeed, although a rather flaky one at present. Just like last year, the Wallabies have been wobbling on their European tour. Held to a 29-29 draw by Wales in Cardiff and hammered by the Irish pack in a 21-6 defeat in the wind in Dublin last Sunday, their lone success in the Test arena has been an unconvincing 25-18 win against Italy in Rome.
It is little wonder that John Connolly, Australia's coach of nine months, is somewhat wary as he approaches this afternoon's finale against a Scotland side unbeaten in five matches at Murrayfield this year. "They're all danger games, as we saw in Italy," he said. "As soon as you haven't got your head on properly a team like Italy will cause you problems. If we're 100 per cent up for a game then it may be a little more comfortable."
The fact that three members of Connolly's squad were 100 per cent up for a prolonged night out on the tiles after the win in Rome - Stirling Mortlock, George Smith and an as yet unidentified third man (call him Harry Lager-and-Lime) - has intensified the chorus of criticism back home.
Connolly's response has been to turn to Alister Campbell for help, though it remains to be seen whether the Waratahs lock - or any of the other five drafted in this afternoon - can succeed in putting a positive spin on the tail end of another bad-news tour for Australia. Still, the Wallabies have potent forces at their disposal behind a largely inexperienced pack: Matt Giteau, Stephen Larkham, Mortlock, Lote Tuqiri and Chris Latham.
Then again, to unleash their chief weapons Connolly's men will need to show a better mastery of the conditions than they did at Lansdowne Road last Sunday; strong winds and heavy rain have been forecast. They will also have to be wary of the right boot of Chris Paterson - fast becoming the most efficient points-scoring machine in international rugby - and perhaps of the omens, too.
It was Scotland's full-back and captain who consigned Australia to defeat at Ballymore in 1982. This afternoon Andy Irvine will be watching events unfold at Murrayfield in his position as president of the Scottish Rugby Union.
Scotland: C Paterson (capt); S Webster, M Di Rollo (all Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow), S Lamont (Northampton); D Parks (Glasgow), M Blair (Edinburgh); G Kerr (Borders), D Hall (Edinburgh), E Murray (Glasgow), N Hines (Perpignan), S Murray, S Taylor (both Edinburgh), K Brown (Borders), D Callam (Edinburgh). Replacements: R Ford (Borders), A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), A Kellock (Glasgow), A Strokosch (Edinburgh), R Lawson (Gloucester), P Godman, H Southwell (both Edinburgh).
Australia: C Latham (Queensland Reds); M Gerrard, S Mortlock (capt, both ACT Brumbies), S Staniforth (Western Force), L Tuqiri (NSW Waratahs); S Larkham (Brumbies), M Giteau (Western Force); B Robinson (Waratahs), S Moore (Reds), G Shepherdson (Brumbies), N Sharpe (Western Force), A Campbell, R Elsom (both Waratahs), G Smith (Brumbies), D Lyons (Waratahs). Replacements: T Polota-Nau, A Baxter (both Waratahs), M Chisholm, P Waugh (both Waratahs), W Palu (Waratahs) or S Hoiles (Brumbies), J Valentine (Reds), M Rogers (Waratahs).
Referee: D Courtney (Ireland).
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