The sports calendar will be full this weekend in Scotland, as the nation enjoys two days of top-end representative football. Two Rugby and Rugby League matches see’s Scotland Set To Host Two International Test Matches this weekend.
Beginning at Derwent Park Stadium, Workington, where the Bravehearts will face the New Zealand Kiwis rugby league team on Friday evening, in the Ladbrokes Four Nations International tournament.
Then at Murrayfield, Edinburgh, the Scotland rugby side will play Australia in a crucial match of the Autumn International window. Crucial for the Scots that is, to regain some pride from their Rugby World Cup loss to the Wallabies. For the visitors, it is step two on their Grand Slam hopes. For the hosts, and for the nation in general, it is the second of two top-class test matches this weekend.
Rugby League team maybe their ‘outside chance’
With Scotland set to host both the Wallabies and Kiwis, the nation will have hopes of at least one win. Is that realistic? Some would say yes–the law of probability shows that every team has it’s day. True for most, and the odds seem to be stacked more in the rugby league teams favour then it’s rugby team brothers.
If you were pessimistic, you can imagine that the Kiwis will be so focused on the permutations of having to qualify for the Four Nations tournament that they focus ‘too hard’. They must win by 31 points or more; to hold an advantage over England, in the event that the Lions can beat the Australian Kangaroos side (played on Saturday).
The home side might take advantage of a distracted Kiwi side who could slip-up on that good old banana skin. While looking over their shoulder, the Scottish league team could ambush the New Zealand side. Either by winning, or at least holding them to a close scoreline where the visitors play a more risky game plan.
Do that, be within a try or goal in the last five minutes, then anything could happen.
Rugby side have the biggest test
Head coach Vern Cotter is a considered man. Not emotional, nor is he outspoken. He knows that it will all come down to a solid preparation and keeping the players minds on the job. He will go through the basic team drills and work on their strengths–although, a replay of the last encounter at Twickenham wouldn’t go astray–to show his men what they did right one year ago.
That close loss is a real measure for Scotland. The home team will need to play as well as that, and being their first full test of the autumn, that might be a tough ask. Australia are quite the hardened test nation…actually, it might be more fitting to say “battle worn”. With just a handful of wins out of the 2016 season, it is not their best effort so far.
In defeating Wales last week, they made a great step forward. It will please Michael Cheika and relieve Stephen Moore no end. Both under pressure, the captain himself needed that win to satisfy Australian sports media. While some might say his role is safe, many more will point out that his season looked to be only getting worse.
This win will aid his position, and temper calls for a new captain to be named.
Grand Slam: Match Two out of Five
Probably one of the toughest schedules in Rugby, a Grand Slam northern hemisphere tour is always dependent on game one. A 8-32 victory was quite emphatic, and showed that the Southern men were not going to be just there ‘just to make up the numbers’. Bernard Foley had his best match for the Wallabies and it was built on good rugby-sense.
Very much a game that was made in the opening half–no catch-up rugby this time. And it was great timing too. After the 25th anniversary of the 1991 World Cup victory, there is no better motivation for the men in Gold. Men like John Eales and Nic Farr-Jones can still inspire the current crop to perform well in 2016.
One down, four to go
The plan must be to now work on the Wallaby sides strengths, to run with the ball and use the turnover as their strong suit. Men like David Pocock can burrow into the tight areas. The fight in the ruck area is going to be pivotal. As it might be for Scotland too, so it will be a ‘tight tussle’ on the ground, as much as in the backline.
Leading the home side will be Greig Laidlaw, the leader and inspiration. His key skill is with ball in hand, and a handy kicking game. The group plays to his strengths, and a ‘basics first’ mentality. From Australia, Will Genia has been brought back into the fold, and his wisdom could be the perfect foil for Laidlaw’s tactics.
The Scotsman said “We are in a better place now than we have been before going into first games in championships.” Referring to the 2016 Six Nations, the Gloucester scrum-half said that “it’s an important game for us at home in front of our people, and when our studs hit the ground at the weekend we are going out there to meet fire with fire.”
“We have had a pretty good hit-out to mirror a game. We are excited and we will be ready to go.”
The Scottish team will have all the support naturally, all the local press and very much all to play for. Upset the Australian team now, and the Scot’s can repay them for 12 months ago and make their Six Nations partners lives much, much easier. Who said is was not the ‘United Kingdom’.
Or maybe just #rugbyunited at least.
SCOTLAND v AUSTRALIA – Saturday November 12
* both teams have not been named at the time of publishing
SCOTLAND v NEW ZEALAND – Friday November 11
After an opening night thrashing from Australia 12-54, the Bravehearts attempted to regain some credibility against England. While a valiant effort, it fell flat in the end–losing 38-12 in Coventry.
True, they will take some heart from the opening half, but many sides can say that. Today’s level of International rugby league must be a full, 80 minute encounter. And that should be the goal on Friday night.
For the Kiwis, it will be about trying ‘not too hard’. Still ranked number one, even after a nail-biting loss to Australia, they have to fire on all cylinders. From the opening set-of-six, it must be controlled. They do not need to scramble, be composed and add points when available–but don’t push for them.
In fact, from either side, patience could be rewarded. You know the forwards want to bash each other, the backs want to fly over the field, but settle first. Control the tempo and that will be rewarded after 80 minutes of footy.
Four Nations 2016: Cumbria keeps up rugby league tradition with Scotland-New Zealand – BBC Sport https://t.co/HyFfvydP5V
Scotland squad: Dave Scott, Danny Addy, Dale Ferguson, Ben Kavanagh, Frankie Mariano, Luke Douglas, Ryan Brierley, Danny Brough (capt), Adam Walker, Billy McConnachie, Liam Hood, Ben Hellewell, Lachlan Coote, Kane Linnett, Euan Aitken, Matthew Russell, Tyler Cassel, Lewis Tierney, Brett Phillips.
Kiwis squad: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Jason Nightingale, Solomone Kata, Gerard Beale, David Fusitu’a, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Jesse Bromwich (capt), Issac Luke, Adam Blair, Manu Ma’u, Tohu Harris, Greg Eastwood. Interchange: Te Maire Martin, Martin Taupau, James Fisher-Harris, Joseph Tapine.
“Main photo credit”