Scotland and Tonga set to do battle
November 22, 2012
Henry Pyrgos starts for Scotland on Saturday © PA Photos
Scotland host Tonga on Saturday in Aberdeen and will be looking to secure their first win of the autumn Test series.
Scotland have already come up against the sizeable challenges of New Zealand and South Africa and while they received praise for their performances, both games ended in defeat for Andy Robinson's side. They managed to score three tries against New Zealand, but conceded more than 50 points and fell to the Boks last Saturday. They finished the game on a high and pushed the Boks' defence all the way, but they ended up with a 21-10 loss and scored just once.
Robinson's side are now unable to return to the top eight in the IRB rankings and will have to contend with going into the 2015 World Cup draw as third seeds. And Tonga are also in that batch of third seeds ranked 12th and look set to remain there ahead of the draw.
Tonga have played two Tests so far in the autumn programme and opened up their campaign with a defeat to Italy in Brescia. But they bounced back last weekend against the USA and prevailed 22-13 in Colwyn Bay.
Scotland - Player to Watch: Henry Pyrgos makes his first start for Scotland and was one of their most impressive performers against the Boks last week. He came off the bench and scored within four minutes and will hope to create some similar havoc on Saturday.
Scotland - Team News: Robinson has shuffled his back line with Max Evans coming into the side in place of Nick de Luca while Pyrgos earns his first start for the Test side and lines up at scrum-half. In the forwards, Scott Lawson is handed his first start since 2011 while Al Kellock gets the nod over Jim Hamilton in the second-row. And in the back-row, Alasdair Strokosch has recovered from his calf injury and takes his place at blindside. And there are four further changes to the bench. Robinson has included uncapped duo Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist and Bath fly-half Tom Heathcote, who was called up on Monday evening. Rory Lawson is also named while De Luca drops down to the replacements from the XV.
Tonga - Player to Watch: Sona Taumalolo scored an incredible nine tries for the Chiefs during their triumphant 2012 Super Rugby season and also packs a punch in the scrum.
Tonga - Team News: Tonga have made one change from the side that beat the USA with Hale T-Pole replacing Leicester's Steve Mafi in the back-row. Uncapped prop Kamaliele Sakalia is named among the replacements with Kisi Pulu dropping out.
Vunga Lilo charges forward against Italy © Getty Images
Key Battle: No.8 Viliami Ma'afu left the Glasgow Warriors earlier this season citing personal reasons but he will look to wreck some havoc in the Scottish back-row when he comes up against some familiar faces. He will face Edinburgh's Dave Denton at the back of the scrum and it should be highly physical battle.
Trivia: Scotland have named Bath fly-half Tom Heathcote on the bench for their match on Saturday. The 20-year-old played age group rugby for England up to Under-20 level and featured in the recent Junior World Championship. But he was born in Inverness and has opted to turn out for Robinson's men.
Stats: Scotland play their third ever Test match at Pittodrie against Tonga this weekend. They beat Canada 41-0 at the ground in 2008 and followed that up with a 19-16 win over Samoa in 2010.
"International rugby is about pressure and it's important that you convert your pressure into points and when you are under pressure that you are able to absorb it as opposed to conceding points as cheaply as we have done" - Scotland coach Andy Robinson
"That's the main reason why we are doing this to keep us up there to make it easier for us in the future but, right now, we've just got to focus on our job to go out there on Saturday and front up " - Winger Fetu'u Vainikolo looks to Saturday's game as an opportunity to strengthen their IRB ranking
Prediction: Scotland should come through this game with a solid victory of around 15-20 points.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
In the wake of another perfect November series, Monday Maul talks to NZRU CEO Steve Tew about the constant demand for perfection
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa
The Wallabies showed flair in Dublin, but they still have a way to go if they are to do more than make up the numbers at the World Cup, writes Greg Growden
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton