Wallabies wary of Scottish ambush in Newcastle rain

Tuesday's test will provide the Wallabies with a warm-up for their three-match series against Wales.

Wallabies fly-half Quade Cooper, wing Digby Ioane and scrum-half Will Genia celebrate after the 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match on 9 October. Picture: AFP

SYDNEY - Australia open their crowded international season this week with an unfamiliar line-up in an unfamiliar location and wary of an early season ambush from a band of Scottish tourists with much to prove.

Tuesday's test will be the first at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle and provides the Wallabies with a warm-up for their three-match series against Six Nations champions Wales, and Scotland for further tests against Fiji and Samoa.

Australia coach Robbie Deans will not need reminding of how his experimental Wallabies side was bushwhacked by an aggressive Samoa side in their opening match of last season at the Sydney Olympic Stadium.

The Wallabies went on to win the Tri-Nations and finish third at the World Cup, of course, but with five new caps in the starting line-up and some players having just three days to recover from Super Rugby outings, Deans was sounding a cautious note.

"They'll be hungry and will sense the opportunity, striking us first up on a limited preparation," he said.

"A feature of the Scottish team under Andy Robinson is that they are very well organised. The Scottish teams of my experience have always been extremely physical in their approach, so they will be very direct and come right at us."

Scotland have not won in Australia in the professional era but upset Australia 9-8 in Edinburgh the last time the two sides met in 2009.

After missing the quarter-finals at the World Cup and another hugely disappointing Six Nations campaign, coach Robinson has rung the changes in his side too and nine players in the match-day 22 have played less than 10 times for their country.

IMPROVED DEFENCE

"Scotland have played ten test matches in Australia and it is 30 years since the lone success to date - at Ballymore in 1982," Robinson said.

"The Wallabies team is liberally sprinkled with quality international rugby players, so we know we'll be underdogs."

Scotland's main problem in the Robinson era has been scoring tries and they will not find that easy against an Australia side which has improved markedly in the defensive aspect of the game in the last two years.

The wet weather forecast for Tuesday might make conditions more reminiscent of Edingburgh than coastal New South Wales but Australia's backline will still fancy their chances of running in a couple of scores at least.

The "three amigos" of James O'Connor, Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper are all absent but with scrumhalf Will Genia orchestrating matters from behind the pack and stand-in captain David Pocock's massive presence at the breakdown, there is enough quality to see off the Scots.

Scotland will be led by hooker Ross Ford and their best chance of another upset may be to try and dominate the Australians up front, keep the match tight and tackle like demons.

"When we last played Australia three years ago, it was one of the most courageous performances of scramble defence I have ever seen," recalled Robinson.

"Four times Australia were over our line only to be held up and it will require that uncompromising resolve in Newcastle on Tuesday if we are to repeat that success."

Teams:

Australia: 15-Luke Morahan, 14-Joe Tomane, 13-Anthony Fainga'a, 12-Mike Harris, 11-Digby Ioane, 10-Berrick Barnes, 9-Will Genia, 8-Scott Higginbotham, 7-David Pocock (captain), 6-Dave Dennis, 5-Nathan Sharpe, 4-Sitaleki Timani, 3-Dan Palmer, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-James Slipper.

Scotland: 15-Stuart Hogg, 14-Joe Ansbro, 13-Nick De Luca, 12-Matt Scott, 11-Sean Lamont, 10-Greig Laidlaw, 9-Mike Blair, 8-John Barclay, 7-Ross Rennie, 6-Alasdair Strokosch, 5-Richie Gray, 4-Alastair Kellock, 3-Euan Murray, 2-Ross Ford (captain), 1-Ryan Grant.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)