Scotland were in a relatively good place at the time. The Five Nations had gone exceedingly well – three wins and a second place finish – though New Zealand remained an insurmountable hurdle, with two comprehensive defeats suffered on Kiwi soil in June. Jim Telfer was in the middle of his second stint as head coach and was not adverse to taking risks, naming Gregor Townsend as Scotland’s youngest ever captain in the absence of injured Rob Wainwright, and recalling talismanic Lions halfbacks Craig Chalmers and Gary Armstrong. The scrumhalf had only just returned from two years in the international wilderness following a knee injury but remained a revered figure north of the border.
Other notable selections in the side included Barry Stewart, starting only his second test. Injuries would curtail the career of the highly promising tighthead, limiting him to only four caps, this being the only one not played against the All Blacks, an unusual bit of trivia. Mobile flanker Murray Wallace – a highly regarded sevens player – was making his debut in place of Wainwright, and bustling centre Ronnie Eriksson was winning his second of three caps. Uncapped hooker Graham Ellis and beanpole lock Scott Murray were on the bench but would not make an appearance that day.
The Wallabies meanwhile had struggled in the Tri-Nations under new coach Greg Smith, but remained a step up for the northern hemisphere sides. Italy had fallen a fortnight earlier to a bit of a mish-mash side of top stars and fringe players, with colourful flyhalf David Knox brought in from the cold after youngsters Pat Howard and Scott Bowen had failed to convince in the jersey following the retirement of Michael Lynagh. The pack was big and bruising, a feature of Australian rugby at the time.
John Eales was in his first season as captain, and a series of future World Cup winners were being slowly introduced to test rugby. It was still early days for Richard Harry and Owen Finegan, and Andrew Blades was winning his first cap at tighthead as the search for a successor for Ewen McKenzie was in full swing. A youthful looking back division included most of the names that would lift the Webb Ellis, though Tim Horan was somewhat out of place selected on the wing. George Gregan was not yet firmly established and forced to watch from the bench alongside David Campese, in his farewell tour on the world stage.
The footage is from the BBC via TSN, with legendary Bill McLaren providing commentary along with newly retired Gavin Hastings. Source is again VHS.
SCOTLAND vs AUSTRALIA
Saturday, November 9, 1996, 15:00 GMT, Edinburgh
Referee: Patrick Thomas (FFR)