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Scotland’s new faces have a chance against Tonga ahead of tougher tests | Scotland rugby union team

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FThe early hurdles are there to be taken with confidence, and that is precisely what Scotland are expected to do against Tonga on Saturday afternoon before facing more difficult challenges against Australia, South Africa and Japan. But this Autumn Nations Series opener at Murrayfield nonetheless poses a significant risk for Gregor Townsend’s side, due to their own depleted resources and the Tongans’ physical threat.

As the game plays out outside the international window, Townsend is without his England and France-based players which, combined with injuries, robs him of at least a half-dozen players who would normally be in his roster. starting point. In the absence of Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Duhan van der Merwe, Chris Harris, Rory Sutherland and Jonny Gray, Townsend has to hope that his new caps – four will start with four more on the bench – will adapt quickly.

Edinburgh mainstay Pierre Schoeman and Glasgow center Sione Tuipulotu seem sure to do so, with Schoeman in particular clearly being ready for the rugby test for some time. Warriors winger Rufus McLean is one of those few counterattackers who can conjure something out of thin air, and Edinburgh’s lockdown Jamie Hodgson would have been capped now had it not been for Covid’s forced cancellation of testing. Scotland was against Georgia and Romania.

But while a strong case can be made for including each of these four, the real concern is whether this inexperienced roster as a whole can find its feet at once. If things go wrong, there is a glaring shortage of seasoned fighters on the bench, where a six-to-two split includes Glasgow uncapped fullbacks Jamie Dobie and Ross Thompson.

Everything will depend on how smoothly Blair Kinghorn fits into his new stand-off berth. Normally a full-back with Edinburgh and a winger with the national team, Kinghorn has a fair amount of inventiveness from Russell, but he has yet to learn the kind of sound decision-making that is second nature to an opening half. , so the Tongans will aim to destabilize him very early.

Scotland’s new faces have a chance against Tonga ahead of tougher tests |  Scotland rugby union team

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Bad luck in Pittodria in November 2012 for Scotsman Tim Visser, Tonga winning 21-15. Photograph: Ian MacNicol / AFP / Getty Images

The visitors have had their own issues and have traveled without head coach Toutai Kefu as he continues to recover from a serious assault at his home in Australia. However, they were able to select their France-based players and also have new Glasgow signing Walter Fifita in their ranks – a formidable 6-foot-5 presence on the wing.

In addition, their return to Scotland will leave them fond memories of a victory celebrated in 2012, when a 21-15 victory at Pittodria ended Andy Robinson’s tenure as head coach of the home side. . There is no such threat to Townsend, who has considerable credit in the bank after leading the team to memorable wins at Twickenham and Stade de France in last season’s Six Nations, but he is aware that a similar result would derail the progress of the past. years and up – and he used that 2012 game as a history lesson for his team in preparing for this game.

“Tonga will probably regard this game as a high point in their history as a rugby team,” he said. “They are a highly motivated team – they will be tough opponents. I don’t think there is a team in world rugby or a group of people who attack each other harder than the Tongans.

Quick guide

Scotland team


Darcy Graham; Kyle Steyn, Sione Tuipulotu, Sam Johnson, Rufus McLean; Blair Kinghorn, Ali Price; Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Jamie Hodgson, Rob Harley, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.

Substitutes: Stuart McInally, Jamie Bhatti, Oli Kebble, Marshall Sykes, Luke Crosbie, Nick Haining, Jamie Dobie, Ross Thompson.

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Scrum-half Ali Price, named co-captain with blind side flanker Jamie Ritchie, expressed similar sentiments yesterday. “People may feel like it’s a win-win and we just have to show up, but it’s a very competitive team with brilliant individuals who can create something from nothing,” he said. -he declares. “They are physical and strong runners, so we have to do a professional performance. “

That should get Scotland home with something to spare, but a win topped with an odd flamboyant touch from Kinghorn or McLean would be preferable preparation for next Sunday’s Wallabies test.

There will be a minute of silence ahead of the match in memory of former Scotland and Lions striker Sandy Carmichael, who died this week at the age of 77.

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