Eager to learn from Scotland defeat - Australia coach Dave Rennie

London (AFP) - Australia head into their European tour opener against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday with coach Dave Rennie urging the Wallabies to be “far more clinical” than in last year’s corresponding fixture.

Rennie’s men suffered a frustrating 15-13 defeat in Edinburgh that ended a five-match winning streak against all opponents and marked the start of an ongoing run of just three victories from 12 matches.

“We had a lot of opportunities to score which we didn’t take,” Rennie told reporters on Thursday.

“We’ve got to be far more clinical – we only scored one try.”

“We’re well aware of the threat they (Scotland) pose.

“They’re excellent post tackle, they have an ability to get a couple in the tackle and choke you and slow your ball down so they can get a wall in front of you. So getting quick ball has been a big focus for us.”

With fly-half Quade Cooper injured, Rennie has now opted for a new half-back pairing of scrum-half Tate McDermott and Bernard Foley in the run-up to next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

Foley is well-known to Scotland, having landed the controversial penalty that condemned them to an agonising 35-34 loss in a 2015 World Cup quarter-final at Twickenham.

Australia will be bolstered by the return of flanker and former captain Michael Hooper, who hasn’t played for the Wallabies since withdrawing on the eve of August’s match against Argentina in Mendoza as he was not in the “right mindset” to lead his country.

“We’re rapt for Hoops,” said Rennie, who has now selected front-row James Slipper as skipper.

“He’s been outstanding both on and off the field since re-entering the environment and he can’t wait to pull on the gold jersey again.”

Scotland have won their last three Tests against the two-time Rugby World Cup winners.

But coach Gregor Townsend, rather like Rennie, could do with a win following a lacklustre 2022 so far, although both coaches have been backed by their boards to still be in charge at next year’s World Cup.

Scotland won just twice in this year’s Six Nations and lost 2-1 on their recent tour of Argentina, with Townsend taking nothing for granted this weekend.

“We’re aware of the strengths Australia bring,” he said.

“I was in Melbourne last month watching them against New Zealand. They lost (39-37) in the last seconds of that game after a brilliant comeback.

“Although they’ve not won as many games as they’d have liked, they’ve shown their quality enough times over the summer to be positive about their northern hemisphere tour.”

- Dempsey switch -

Change of allegiance - Former Australia flanker Jack Dempsey (C) could make his Scotland debut against the Wallabies

Saturday’s match has been given added interest by the fact flanker Jack Dempsey, who won 14 caps for Australia, could make his Scotland debut off the bench.

Dempsey is Scotland-qualified under new World Rugby eligibility rules allowing a change of allegiance after a three-year stand down if players have a “close and credible link via birthright” (his grandfather is Scottish).

“He’s already proved he’s got the game to thrive at international level and we believe he’s got the game that can really thrive for us,” said Townsend.

The Dark Blues boss, who can only select home-based players for a match that falls outside World Rugby’s window for end-of-year Tests, added: “He’s played very well for Glasgow and we want to see his strengths when he comes on.”

Rennie, himself a former Glasgow coach, said: “We always felt he lacked a little bit of physicality and we gave him that feedback and I know he’s worked hard on that and we’ve seen it prosper and blossom at Glasgow.

“I know he’ll be keen as to get among our boys, he knows a lot of them really well.”

Saturday’s match will be Scotland’s first since Townsend took the controversial decision to drop fly-half Finn Russell from his entire Autumn squad, although the fly-half would have been unavailable this weekend given he plays Paris-based club Racing 92.

Blair Kinghorn starts at fly-half in a team led by flanker Jamie Ritchie, with Townsend saying only of a possible Test recall for the in-form Russell: “The door is not closed on any player.”