Saturday, 24 November 2012

Scotland v Tonga - Preview

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Scotland aim to complete the autumn Tests series with a win over Tonga on Saturday after defeats by New Zealand and South Africa.

Andy Robinson's men have shown glimpses of potential in losing against the world's top two sides.

However, they were guilty of slow starts in both games at Murrayfield and will look to rectify that at Pittodrie.

Scotland, who have never lost in Aberdeen, make six changes from the 21-10 loss to the Springboks.

Kyle Traynor is a late addition to the starting XV, replacing the injured prop Ryan Grant.

Head coach Andy Robinson had already brought in hooker Scott Lawson, lock Alastair Kellock, flanker Alasdair Strokosch, scrum-half Henry Pyrgos and centre Max Evans.

Out go Ross Ford, Jim Hamilton, Mike Blair, Nick De Luca and John Barclay, with the latter two dropping to the bench.

Rory Lawson returns as replacement scrum-half, having not played since captaining the side to a World Cup loss to Argentina in Wellington, and is joined among the substitutes by uncapped trio Tom Heathcote, Grant Gilchrist and Gordon Reid.

Bath fly-half Heathcote was drafted into the squad on Monday following the release of Ruaridh Jackson, while Gilchrist provides back-up for second row pairing Richie Gray and Kellock.

"There were a number of aspects, a bit like the New Zealand game, where you can look at the real positives about what we've done," said Robinson.

"[But] the game of rugby is about being able to perform for 80 minutes and that's a key area for us this week.

"You put together 35, 40 minutes of what we did against New Zealand with 35, 40 minutes of what we did against South Africa and there's an 80-minute performance for us."

Tonga are 12th in the IRB rankings, two behind the Scots, and will present formidable opposition.

The visitors beat eventual runners-up France in the group phase at last year's World Cup.

Tonga have made one change from the side that beat the United States last weekend, with Hale T-Pole called up to start in place of Leicester's Steve Mafi in the back-row.

"They're looking forward to an opportunity here to knock us over," said Robinson. "We understand that.

"For them to perform the way they did against France was superb. Look at what France did after that, to get to the final and put New Zealand under pressure. It just shows you the levels that Tonga can get to.

"That's why we've got to be able to perform for 80 minutes; our focus has been about that. There are going to be times when we make mistakes.

"When we do make our errors, we've got to be able to absorb the pressure that's there. We've allowed the opposition to score too easily."

Scotland : Stuart Hogg, Sean Lamont, Max Evans, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Greig Laidlaw, Henry Pyrgos, Kyle Traynor, Scott Lawson, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Alastair Kellock, Alasdair Strokosch, Kelly Brown (capt), David Denton.

Replacements : Dougie Hall, Gordon Reid, Geoff Cross, Grant Gilchrist, John Barclay, Rory Lawson, Tom Heathcote, Nick De Luca.

Tonga : Vungakoto Lilo, Fetu'u Vainikolo, Sukanaivalu Hufanga, Sione Piukala, Will Helu, Fangatapu Apikotoa, Taniela Moa, Viliami Ma'afu; Alisona Taumalolo, Elvis Taione , Halani Aulika, Joe Tu'ineau, Tukulua Lokotui, Hale T-Pole, Nili Latu.

Replacements : Ilaisa Ma'asi, Tevita Mailau, Kamaliele Sakalia, Sitiveni Mafi, Sione Timani, Viliame 'longi, Eddie Paea, Alipate Fatafehi.

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)

Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland) and Marius Mitrea (Italy)

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