This weekend sees the beginning of the 2022 Autumn international fixtures, with the Southern Hemisphere’s rugby heavyweights travelling north and testing themselves against the best that the upper half of the globe can offer.
The first fixture on this year’s calendar is Australia’s trip to Murrayfield, which is by no means an easy start to the Wallabies’ Autumn campaign, even with Scotland missing the creativity of standoff Finn Russell and the influence of full-back Stuart Hogg. As a result of their absences, the tourists are perhaps the favourites to take the win, although the likelihood is that fans can look forward to what promises to be an entertaining contest.
This tactical analysis will pick out four players worth keeping an eye on when the match gets underway, with analysis of their key qualities and thoughts on why they will be essential to their teams’ tactics and hopes of winning the game.
When looking at the different areas of Scotland’s team, the one that always attracts a great deal of attention is their back row, with it well-known that a lot of their attacking and defensive tactics are built on these three players getting involved at the breakdown and making strong carries up the field.
However, this weekend, there will be an added quality required in that section of the team, with flanker Jamie Ritchie taking over from Hogg as team captain. There is no doubt that he will want to start his tenure off with a win, but he will need to play a key role in securing that as his teammates will be looking at him, Hamish Watson and Matt Fagerson to drive the team forward when they have possession and to win turnovers when they don’t, with this match likely to feature plenty of physical battles in tight areas.
As mentioned at the start of this analysis, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has opted to leave Racing 92’s Finn Russell out of his squad, which has raised eyebrows among the fans due to his ability to provide a spark on the field when his team need one.
Instead, Blair Kinghorn will start at fly-half, partnering Ali Price in the half-back positions. The Edinburgh player is a regular in the Scotland squad, but the standoff role is not his main position as he normally plays as either a winger or a full-back. Therefore, there will be a lot of eyes on him as many look to see if Townsend has made the right call or not.
He will need to show a lot of composure and quality in the middle of the field for his team to have any chance of beating Australia, and it will be interesting to see how well he links up with the two wingers, Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe, in order to create opportunities. What will also be worth looking out for is if the Wallabies look to close him down as much as possible and try to force mistakes, using his relative inexperience against him.
Australia’s captain is one of the best in his position when on top form, with a fearsome ball carrying ability and strength when repelling opposing drives making him someone that Scotland will need to watch out for when the two meet on Saturday.
One major point to make is that he never gives his opponents time to think once they receive the ball, with plenty of examples throughout his career of when individual players have been caught out and prevented from moving the ball towards a teammate. He also leads from the front and by example, never giving up when driving forwards and giving everything to the game, making him a rallying point whenever his team need some inspiration.
With all of this in mind, the home side will need to be constantly aware of his presence, as he could be a key player in the Wallabies securing a win in this match.
CLUB: Melbourne Rebels
When looking for a player who epitomises Australia’s fast-paced style of rugby under head coach Dave Rennie, one of the first names to come to mind is that of Andrew Kellaway, who has shown during his career that he was quite simply born to score tries.
However, it is not just a case of him running around the pitch aimlessly, because there is a lot of precision to the way he plays, with him demonstrating a good awareness of where he can support his teammates and where he can take opponents out of position and create gaps in their line. With pace to burn and a good 1-v-1 ability, he is someone that the Wallabies can trust to convert opportunities, and, given all of this, it would not be a surprise to see him feature on the scoresheet at some point in the match.