Scotland brace for Samoan onslaught
Scotland coach Andy Robinson has made three key changes as his team look to make it a clean sweep on their southern hemisphere tour.
Scotland coach Andy Robinson has made three key changes as his team look to make it a clean sweep on their southern hemisphere tour against Samoa this weekend.
Scrumhalf Mike Blair makes way for Chris Cusiter, who has made an explosive contribution off the bench in his last two matches, whilst the other two new faces in the starting line-up are No.8 Richie Vernon and wing Sean Lamont.
Vernon returns to the Scotland starting line-up for the first time since the World Cup pool match against England last year replacing John Barclay who has returned home ahead of his wedding.
Lamont's physicality has won him the nod over Max Evans on the wing as Robinson's side look to adapt to the power game that Samoa are likely to favour.
Samoa have just arrived back from Japan where they collected the Pacific Nations Cup, sealed with a 27-26 victory against the hosts in Tokyo on Sunday. Robinson said that he has been impressed by their ball-carriers and believes they have the capacity to mix power with flair.
"You just have to look at what happened two years ago when we were at home. On the back of beating South Africa and in conditions that were utterly alien for the Samoans [snow and freezing temperatures] we were drawing 16 all with one minute to go at Pittodrie and we were lucky enough to get a penalty to win the game," he recalled.
Lamont, who will return for his 68th cap, has reason to remember games against Samoa. Back in Wellington in 2004, he won his first cap against the Pacific islanders and then the game in Aberdeen in 2010 was his 50th cap.
"I quite enjoy playing against island teams. I like the big hitters, they are very physical. It's great to test yourself in that sort of sense," he said.
If Scotland manage to win in Apia on Saturday it will be the first time that they have ever won all three matches on a southern hemisphere tour, which raises the stakes against the physical Samoans.
Robinson, who will confirm his replacements later this week, is adamant that his team can follow through.
"That's something we are striving for. It's our next Test match. We have to focus on winning each Test and we go into Saturday with confidence that we can take on a strong Samoan side," he said.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Richie Vernon, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford (captain), 1 Ryan Grant.
Date: Saturday, June 23
Venue: Apia Park, Apia
Kick-off: 15.30 (2.30 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Andrew Lees (Australia)