Test nations closer than ever

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

It’s getting tighter at the top of Test rugby, Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley says.

After the Wallabies were edged by England at Twickenham, Scotland pushed the All Blacks, falling just five points short, while Fiji and Georgia were competitive with Wales and Ireland, albeit under strength lineups.

New Zealand lost to Australia just last month and a drawn Lions Series in July showed that the best of the Northern Hemisphere players are more than competitive against the world’s best.

Exactly how far the gap is between world no. 2 England and New Zealand will not be tested for another year, but under Eddie Jones, the English look more threatening than ever, with 21 wins from 22 matches.

Scotland went agonisingly close to beating New Zealand. Photo: Getty ImagesFoley said there were signs that the chasing pack were starting to close in on the best sides, a positive for the sport.

“There's a lot of teams who are really lifting and teams challenging all the top tier nations. For us, it's something we're prepared for,” he said.

“Especially coming over here and playing against these sides in the Northern Hemisphere conditions, it's something we've got to lift and adjust to.

“That's the  great thing about Test match rugby, that every team can really rise and lift and challenge any other team on the day.”

Australia will have another litmus test against the ever-improving Scotland, who got the better of them in Sydney in June.

Foley said he expected a more cohesive unit than they faced even in June, with the side taking major strides under former Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend.

:It's going to be a really tight contest,” he said.

“Scotland have always troubled us, they're always really tight games and they play with a lot of passion, especially with their new coach in Gregor (Townsend), he's really galvanised their side and they can play with a bit of flair,” he said.

“For us it's going to be a tremendously difficult Test match, especially at Murrayfield and something we're going to have to get up for.”

Though the Wallabies will have the deflation of losing to England and Scotland being the final leg of a marathon season, Foley said they were desperate to end things on a high.

Australia has a handful of players who are playing in the UK for the first time on this tour, most recently debutant Blake Enever as well as names like Samu Kerevi and Karmichael Hunt, who both missed a chance last year with injury.

“I think we've seen the growth in this side throughout this year and for us it'll be finishing on a high note and a lot of young guys on their first tour or first Wallabies season,” Foley said.

“They've got to take every challenge and every opportunity they get in this gold jersey and next week's going to be one of the biggest tasks they've ever had."

The Wallabies flew into Edinburgh on Sunday afternoon, local time, ahead of Saturday’s clash with Scotland.

Australia takes on Scotland on Saturday November 25, kicking off at 2:30pm local, Sunday 1:30am AEDT, LIVE on beIn Sports and SBS Viceland.