EASY win for Australia here? Russ Petty (rpetty80) takes a look at the final quarter-final for us.
Australia v Scotland | Sunday 16:00 | ITV1
This will be just the 14th game in charge for Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, but in that time he has identified and resolved many of the team’s weaknesses.
Last year Australia lost to Argentina in Mendoza and couldn’t close out a home win over New Zealand, despite holding a ten point lead going into the final 15 minutes. Under Cheika, this group won 34-9 in Argentina this year and beat the All Blacks by eight points in Brisbane – outscoring them in the final 15 minutes by 10-0.
While other Australian teams might have scrum nightmares about their previous trips to Twickenham, the 2015 squad won penalties at the set-piece on the way to their biggest ever win over England there.
Add in the late two try comeback against South Africa and incredible defensive display when down to 13 players against Wales last week and it can be seen that the Wallabies are having quite a memorable year.
They face a Scotland team that lost all five games in the Six Nations this year. Since then they have put 48 points on Italy, scored 45 against Japan, 39 against USA and 36 against Samoa – showing themselves capable of absorbing any early pressure against those opponents and then scoring heavily late on.
Vern Cotter’s team made the most tackles in the pool stage with 585 – an average of 25 more a game than Australia. Despite long periods of defending they didn’t win many turnovers, with their total of 23 only better than Japan’s 21. The selection of Blair Cowan and John Hardie together can be seen as an attempt to improve that.
Australia are without David Pocock, who topped the charts for turnovers won in Super Rugby, Rugby Championship and so far in this World Cup. They do have Michael Hooper back though and an example of the current strength in depth is that Ben McCalman can be brought in with Sean McMahon on the bench.
Scotland conceded 26 points in the 1st half in their final pool match against Samoa. While they did contribute with 23 points of their own before the break, it was the first time in five matches they’d scored a first half try. Australia kept Fiji, Uruguay and England to three points in the first half during the group stage and Wales to six. Cheika has put an emphasis on how his team finish games but there might be the opportunity to punish another slow Scotland start.
Australia v Scotland – Australia -6.5 First Half Handicap (5/6 Betfair)
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