Rugby World Cup
Preview: Scotland vs. Australia -- Wallabies out to reassert dominance
Sam Bruce
October 17, 2015
How will the Wallabies handle being labelled the 'favourites?'

It's Australia and Scotland in the final quarter-final of Rugby World Cup 2015 with the two sides to lock horns at Twickenham on Sunday afternoon. The Wallabies are the obvious pick considering their impressive form in the pool stage yet Scotland have shown they are a greatly improved side from the one that finished bottom of the Six Nations without a win. The Scots, too, have enjoyed the better of the recent history with the Wallabies, winning two out of last three encounters. Still, it's easy to see why the Australians have suddenly become the popular pick to take out a third Webb Ellis crown. Coach Michael Cheika has built a strong mentality throughout the squad while the contrasting victories over England and Wales show they're a far more complete side than the flaky-attacking outfits that have headed north in previous years.

Team news

Coach Vern Cotter has made four changes to the side that held off a spirited challenge from Samoa in Newcastle last weekend. Three-week bans to Jonny Gray and Ross Ford mean there are starts for Tim Swinson and Fraser Brown at lock and hooker, respectively, while Blair Cowan comes into the side in place of Ryan Wilson after the Glasgow man was sin-binned last weekend. The only change to the backline sees Peter Horne replace Matt Scott at inside-centre.

The Wallabies will be without a couple of their biggest names with Israel Folau and David Pocock failing to overcome injuries in time to take their places on Sunday. Luckily for Cheika, he has the ability to call on a couple of accomplished campaigners in Kurtley Beale at full-back and Ben McCalman at No.8. The other changes to the starting side that defeated Wales see Rob Simmons reclaim his place at lock ahead of Dean Mumm while vice-captain Michael Hooper returns from suspension at openside flanker. Beale's promotion to the run-on side means there is a spot on the bench for Quade Cooper.

Kurtley Beale
Kurtley Beale© Chris Lee - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

Laidlaw: We can't wait for the quarter-final
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Scotland

Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett, Peter Horne, Sean Maitland, Finn Russell, Greg Laidlaw (captain); David Denton, John Hardie, Blair Cowan, Tim Swinson, Richie Gray, WP Nel, Fraser Brown, Alasdair Dickinson.

Replacements: Kevin Bryce, Gordon Reid, Jon Welsh, Alasdair Strokosch, Josh Strauss, Henry Pyrgos, Richie Vernon, Sean Lamont.

Australia 

Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Ben McCalman, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio.

Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Greg Holmes, Dean Mumm, Sean McMahon, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Quade Cooper.

Key head-to-head:

The loss of Pocock means the Wallabies will be without one half of their breakdown double-act for the second straight week. Sean McMahon did an admirable job in Hooper's absence last week while the faultless Scott Fardy reminded everyone of his unassuming quality. But there is no doubt Pocock's omission opens up an opportunity for the Scots at the tackle with Ben McCalman more of a ball-running No.8 than a breakdown force. New Zealand-born openside John Hardie has been in fine form for Scotland and if he can limit Hooper's effectiveness over the ball than the Scots may well be in within a chance of an upset.

Cheika: We've done nothing yet
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Key stats

* Australia have won 29 turnovers during the tournament while Scotland have managed only 18.

* All three of their most recent (2009-2013) encounters have been decided by six points or less, with Scotland leading 2-1.

* There has been just one match between the two nations at a World Cup with Australia triumphing 33-16 in Brisbane in 2003.

Can Scotland upset the odds?
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Weather

Twickenham will hit its top of 14 degrees just in time for kick-off on Sunday afternoon on an otherwise cloudy day in the capital. Showers are possible.

Odds

Unibet only have eyes for Australia with the Wallabies installed as 1/13 favourites. Anyone thinking of an upset will like the look of the 15/2 on offer for the Scots while the line has been set at 16.5 points.

Prediction

Scotland have given Australia plenty of trouble in recent times but it's hard to see that same storyline continuing on Sunday afternoon. The Wallabies are a united and focused force under Cheika and steeled by their defensive heroics against the Welsh, are full of self-confidence. They'll have too much class for this improving Scottish outfit. Australia by 13.

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