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Thu 22 Nov 2012 | 06:23

Preview: Scotland v Tonga

Preview: Scotland v Tonga
Thu 22 Nov 2012 | 06:23

Preview: Scotland v Tonga


Scotland captain Kelly Brown is aiming to continue his love affair with Aberdeen by leading his frustrated side to success against Tonga on Saturday.

The two sides clash at Pittodrie Stadium with the Scots desperate to salvage some Test pride following their defeats by the world champion All Blacks and South Africa at Murrayfield.

Though rugby realist Brown insisted success at the expense of the south sea troops is no stonewall certainty, he made it clear he is delighted at the prospect of returning to one of his favourite venues.

"It is always good to come up to Aberdeen – the place means an awful lot to me because it was where I made my first Scotland appearance back in 2005," he said.

"It was a brilliant occasion because it was the first time we had ever beaten the Barbarians. We have never lost at Pittodrie and we have no intentions of doing so now."

Brown insisted he felt no personal pressure to deliver the right result following the losses to the top two teams in the world.

Defeat by the Springboks saw Scotland drop to 10th place in the International Rugby Board World Rankings and they now won't be able to achieve a top eight position that will allow them to be in the leading two bands of seeds by the time of next month's pool draw for the 2015 World Cup in England.

That position has freed up coach Andy Robinson, a former England flank and head coach, to make more changes than he might otherwise have done, with Glasgow scrumhalf Henry Pyrgos set to make his first Test start.

And Brown believes the ditching of experienced players such as Mike Blair and Ross Ford will not count against Scotland.

"The guys coming into the squad – particularly Ally Kellock and Rory Lawson – have been around a long time. There is a core of experience throughout not only the matchday group, but the greater current pool of 32.

"Over the past two weekends, I think we've shown in patches what we can do – but for us it's about really nailing an 80-minute performance," said Brown.

Tonga, 12th in the world to Scotland's 10th, are sure to provide a robust challenge and Brown said: "There will be a lot of physicality as these island sides always bring a lot of passion.

"They've also got players right through the side that have that little bit of magic, so we've got to make sure that we really stick to our defensive structure and impose ourselves on them."

Glasgow's shortest-serving player Viliami Ma'afu will line-up for Tonga.

The giant breakaway forward clinched a two-year deal with the Warriors in the pre-season, only to depart suddenly a few weeks later.

Ma'afu cited family reasons for the abrupt about-turn and Glasgow supremo Gregor Townsend lured South African powerhouse Josh Strauss as his replacement.

Meanwhile, Northland flank Hale T-Pole replaces Leicester Tigers star Steve Mafi in Tonga's back row.

It is the only change to coach Mana Otai's side after their 22-13 win over the United States in Wales last Saturday.

Players to Watch:

For Scotland: The energetic Henry Pyrgos, fresh off an impressive try-scoring cameo against South Africa, makes his run-on debut and could breathe new life into the backline. Sean Lamont and Zimbabwean-born David Denton also impressed against the Springboks and will be key ball-carriers, and Scott Lawson and Max Evans will garner attention as they return to the starting XV.

For Tonga: For the Islanders, the spotlight will fall on former Highlanders loose forward Hale T Pole, whose workmanlike presence will bolster the back row as he returns to the starting line-up. Former Super Rugby-winning Chiefs prop Alisona Taumalolo will be a key figure at scrum time and a try-scoring threat close to the line while rookie hooker Kamaliele Sakalia is in line to make his Test debut off the bench.  

Head to Head: The clash of the captains at blindside flank will set the tone for what will undoubtedly be a physically intense encounter. Pyrgos’ defensive capabilities will be tested by bulky Taniela Moa while juggernaut wings Tim Visser and Fetu'u Vainikolo are on a collision course.

Recent results:
2001: Scotland won 43-20 at Murrayfield, Edinburgh
1995: Scotland won 41-5 at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Prediction: Tonga will be well-served to follow the Springbok blueprint and attempt to dominate up front. Slow, scrappy ball would put a considerable amount of pressure on the inexperienced Pyrgos and would force him to adopt a tactical approach. Scotland, however, are hungry for a win following the defeats to New Zealand and South Africa and they should get the better of the Tongans by 10 points or more.


Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Max Evans, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 David Denton, 7 Kelly Brown (captain), 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Kyle Traynor.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 John Barclay, 21 Rory Lawson, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Nick de Luca.

Tonga: 15 Vungakoto Lilo, 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 13 Sukanaivalu Hufanga, 12 Sione Piukala, 11 Will Helu, 10 Fangatapu 'Apikotoa, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Nili Latu (captain), 6 Hale T Pole, 5 Tukulua Lokotui, 4 Joe Tu'ineau, 3 Halani 'Aulika, 2 Elvis Taione, 1 Alisona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Ilaisa Ma'asi, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Kamaliele Sakalia, 19 Sitiveni Mafi, 20 Sione Timani, 21 Viliame 'longi, 22 Eddie Paea, 23 Alipate Fatafehi.

Date: Saturday, November 24
Venue: Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland) and Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

AFP and rugby365.com

PV: 38
Preview: Scotland v Tonga | Rugby365