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Hooper says Wallabies’ remain ‘fired-up’ after Scotland loss

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Australia's flanker Michael Hooper (R) is tackled by Scotland's number 8 Matt Fagerson (L) and Scotland's flanker Hamish Watson (C) during the Autumn International rugby union match against Scotland on Sunday. AFP

Hooper says Wallabies’ remain ‘fired-up’ after Scotland loss

Michael Hooper insisted Australia would be even more fired-up than usual against England this weekend after a 15-13 loss to Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday ended the Wallabies’ five-match winning streak.

Australia now have just a six-day turnaround before a Test against an England side coached by former Australia boss Eddie Jones at Twickenham on Saturday where they will try to end a run of seven straight defeats by their old rivals.

“That’s a setback,” said Australia captain Hooper. “The motivation was about going well today and continuing the momentum we’ve built in the year.”

Australia haven’t beaten England since a 33-15 success at Twickenham in the pool phase of the 2015 World Cup – a result that contributed to the hosts’ first-round exit and Jones’ appointment as Red Rose supremo.

“The record hasn’t been great, but a lot of these [Australia] guys haven’t played up here [Europe] and been a part of those games,” added Hooper. “They don’t feel that stuff.

“It’s a new team and it’s a great challenge for us [this] week to roll into England. The fire in the belly hasn’t extinguished at all. After that [losing to Scotland] it’s raised,” the flanker insisted.

Scotland’s Hamish Watson scored the only try of the first half before Rob Leota hit back for Australia when the Wallabies were a man down.

But an often scrappy game swung back in Scotland’s favour on the hour when substitute hooker Ewan Ashman marked his Test debut with a diving try at the corner – a score worthy of a wing.

James O’Connor’s penalty nudged Australia 13-12 ahead before opposing fly-half Finn Russell kicked Scotland 15-13 in front.

Scotland held out for the final 12 minutes although the result might have been different had not Hooper, forcing his way over from close range, seen a first-half try disallowed for dangerous play in the build-up by Allan Alaalatoa.

To make matters worse for the Wallabies, the prop was shown a yellow card by Romain Poite in the experienced French official’s final Test as a referee.

“I’m not one to have a crack at referees around decisions, but it was a pretty tough decision against us I thought,” said Australia coach Dave Rennie.

England launched their end-of-year programme by scoring 11 tries a 69-3 rout of Tonga at Twickenham on Saturday.

‘More in us’

Rennie added Australia would need to up their intensity for a match where they could be without wing Jordan Petaia (hamstring) and prop Taniela Tupou, undergoing concussion protocols, after the pair were injured in Edinburgh.

“We’ve got to be able to build pressure for longer,” said Rennie, previously in charge of Scottish club Glasgow.

“We’ve got more in us. We certainly need to be a lot better and we need to be a lot better against England.”

Scotland’s victory followed a 60-14 thrashing of Tonga in their Autumn Nations Series opener, with Dark Blues coach Gregor Townsend delighted by his side’s win in front of the first Murrayfield capacity crowd of over 67,000 since the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Scotland, who’ve also defeated England and France this year, will face an acid test of their progress when world champions South Africa arrive at Murrayfield on Saturday fresh from a 23-18 win over Wales in Cardiff.

“They have a unique way of playing,” said former Scotland playmaker Townsend of the Springboks.

“It is very demanding physically, so a huge effort will be required from the forwards at set-piece, and a huge effort will be required to deal with their kicking game.

“And then we’ve got to be accurate and innovative to find ways to get through, round or over their defence.”

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