Preview: Fiji v Scotland
Fri, 15 Jun 2012 09:41
Scotland will seek to maintain winning momentum in a one-off Test against a pacy Fijian side on Saturday after opening their Southern Hemisphere tour with a rousing upset victory over Australia.
Blustery, wet conditions played into Scotland's hands in a tryless 9-6 win over the Wallabies last week but the Bravehearts expect a more open game against Fiji, who are desperate to impress on home soil.
Not only will the match be played in the tropical heat of Lautoka, but the Six Nations wooden spooners will have to blunt a Fijian attack renowned for its ability to score from any area of the park.
Scotland scrumhalf Mike Blair said the Bravehearts needed to muster a massive defensive effort, similar to the one that got them home against Australia.
"We're very aware of the strength the Fijians have got," he said.
"We've watched their last two games in Japan (in the Pacific Nations Cup) and they have incredible offloading skills, so our tackles have to be spot on."
The Scots have only lost once in seven previous meetings with Fiji, a 51-26 defeat in Suva in 1998 that the touring side blamed at the time on unfamiliarity with the humid conditions in the Fijian capital.
In a bid to ensure no repeat this time around, the Scots arrived in Fiji last Monday to give themselves almost a week to acclimatise to demanding local conditions.
Coach Andy Robinson has made just two changes to the side that downed Australia, bringing in Max Evans on the right wing and Dutch-born debutante Tim Visser on the left.
He will wait until Saturday to finalise his bench to gauge how players have recovered from a stomach bug that swept through the camp.
The last Six Nations team to play in Fiji was Italy in 2006 and Fiji captain Netani Talei said the hosts were keen to make the most of a rare opportunity against Northern Hemisphere opposition on home soil.
It is also a chance for the Fijians to showcase changes made since a disappointing campaign at last year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, where they were eliminated in the pool stages after a string of lacklustre displays.
"I told the boys 'make use of the time and whatever you do come out hard, you'll never get this opportunity to play a tier one nation at home again'," Talei said.
"Having tier one nations coming in opens the gates for everything - for contracts for the local boys, sponsorships and more teams looking at us and saying 'oh yes, they've improved.'
"Winning this weekend will be a massive, massive achievement for us."
Players to watch:
For Fiji: It's odd to talk about a Fijian forward as one of their biggest stars, but lock Leone Nakarawa was a standout during last year's World Cup. He does good work in the tight phases of the game and scored some great tires from broken play as well. The back to keep an eye on is centre Wereniki Goneva, who can be devastating on attack and recently signed for English powerhouse Leicester Tigers.
For Scotland: Fullback Stuart Hogg added a spark and some flair to the Scottish backline during the Six Nations, which is something that has been missing from Scottish rugby for years. To get some ascendency in the scrum the spotlight will be on tough tighthead prop Euan Murray to do some damage, while big lock Richie Gray should be more than a handful at line-out time.
Head to head: All eyes will be on the flying Dutchman Tim Visser on the left wing for Scotland, as his renowned finishing ability in the Pro 12 could be exactly what the Scots need out wide. Visser will be up against Fiji's Waisea Nayacalevu, who in the tradition of Fijian wings has both strength and speed to his advantage. Interestingly Nayacalevu is also a logistics officer at Fosters Group Pacific Limited-Walubay Brewery, so he could be a good man for the Scots to become mates with after the match.
2009: Scotland won 23-10, Edinburgh
2003: Scotland won 22-20, Sydney
2002: Scotland won 36-22, Edinburgh
1998: Fiji won 51-26, Suva
1989: Scotland won 38-17, Edinburgh
Prediction: Scotland are the more structured side with plenty of Test match experience against the top teams in the world. Fiji have several stars capable of individual brilliance and a reputation for looking to open things up sevens-style. Scotland will look to slow the ball down and their calculated approach should be enough for a win. Scotland by about 10.
Fiji: 15 Isimeli Koniferedi, 14 Waisea Nayacalevu, 13 Wereniki Goneva, 12 Aloisio Buto, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Jonetai Ralulu, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Malakai Ravulo, 6 Iliese Ratuva, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisai Naikatini, 3 Setefano Somoca, 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Jeremaia Yanuyanutawa.
Replacements: 16 Tuatpati Talemaitoga, 17 Waisea Daveta/Graham Dewes, 18 Josefa Domolailai, 19 Kelepi Ketedromo, 20 Nemia Kenatale, 21 Kameli Ratuvou, 22 Metuisela Talebula.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Max Evans, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Mike Blair, 8 John Barclay, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Alastair Kellock, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Geoff Cross, 18 Tom Ryder, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Duncan Weir, 22 Sean Lamont.
Date: Saturday, June 16
Venue: Churchill Park, Lautoka
Kick-off: 14.00 (03.00 BST; 02.00 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith, Andrew Lees (both Australia)
AFP and rugby365.com
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