Michael Hooper’s breakdown prowess will give the Wallabies an edge in their quarter-final against Scotland at Twickenham on Sunday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Scotland are known for their ability to stifle and frustrate at the breakdown. They will look to control this area of the game on a wet afternoon at Twickenham.
The Scots will hope that the game descends into a dogfight. They may believe that they have the forwards as well as an accurate goal-kicker in Greig Laidlaw to win a tight contest.
The Wallabies, of course, are no angels at the breakdown. In Hooper and David Pocock they have two renegades who are always looking to push the limits. The pair’s speed between rucks has been essential to the team’s success over the past four weeks, as has the quality of their decision-making.
The Wallabies won’t have the luxury of fielding the ‘Pooper’ combination this week. Hooper is back after serving a one-week suspension, but Pocock is unavailable due to injury. Fullback Israel Folau also won’t be risked due to an ankle ailment.
Nevertheless, the Wallabies will field a well-balanced loose trio that should cause Scotland problems. Hooper will partner Scott Fardy and Ben McCalman in the back row. One just can’t see the Scotland loose forwards outplaying their Australian counterparts.
While the Wallabies have scored some wonderful tries at this tournament, they have also shown some remarkable ticker on defence. They will meet the physicality of the Scots in the first 60 minutes of this contest. They will keep the scoreboard ticking over through the accurate goal-kicking of flyhalf Bernard Foley.
In the final 20 minutes, the Wallabies will break clear. Both captain Stephen Moore and centre Matt Giteau will have the chance to mark their 100th Tests with a win.
The victory will catapult them into a semi-final clash against one of Argentina or Ireland.
Wallabies – 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Sean McMahon, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Quade Cooper.
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 David Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 Blair Cowan, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 WP Nel, 2 Fraser, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Subs: 16 Kevin Bryce, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Alasdair Strokosch, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Richie Vernon, 23 Sean Lamont.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Pascal Gauzère (France)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images