Australia captain Michael Hooper hopes the return of a seasoned trio of European-based Wallaby stalwarts against Scotland will help inspire his side to continue their recent encouraging unbeaten streak.
Hooper explained in Edinburgh on the eve of Sunday’s Test (Monday morning AEDT) at Murrayfield how impressed he had been by Kurtley Beale, Will Skelton and Rory Arnold, the French-based trio who have joined the squad in Britain.
“They’ve brought a real level of experience,” Hooper said of the three who have played 136 Tests between them.
“They’ve taken to the new systems and structures really well in a short period of time. I’ve been really impressed with how they’ve gone.”
Hooper reckoned that the versatile Paris-based back Beale, who’ll be cover for both the No.15 and No.10 shirts on the replacements’ bench, was “pumped to be back in the kit”.
“Kurtley’s got 92 caps. You just can’t buy that sort of experience,” added Hooper, who himself will be making his 117th Wallabies’ appearance.
It echoed coach Dave Rennie’s comments about the trio all being “very passionate, desperate to play”, with Toulouse lock Arnold ready to start his 27th Test and his fellow second-rower Skelton, of La Rochelle, back on the bench after a five-year absence.
The Wallabies have looked reinvigorated of late under Rennie’s sure hand, having beaten Japan, Argentina and world champions South Africa twice on their five-game unbeaten run – their best sequence since their seven wins on the trot en route to the 2015 World Cup final.
But Hooper is wary of a “really quality” Scottish team who’ve played just once – last week’s trouncing of Tonga – since their notable Six Nations triumph over France in Paris in March.
Hooper knows just how good the Scots can be, having lost to them on three of the six occasions he’s faced them, including on his Wallabies’ debut in 2012 in Newcastle.
The last time the teams met, at Murrayfield four years ago, the Scots earned their biggest-ever win over Australia – a 53-24 thrashing which featured eight tries for the home side.
“A tough day at the office,” Hooper recalled.
“They (Scotland) can really grind you down through really good rugby, really good defensive rugby but they have some real attacking flair.”