Scotland v Tonga - Teams and Prediction
END OF YEAR TEST: Scotland will kick off their international season against Tonga on Saturday at the BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh.
Scotland last hosted Tonga at Murrayfield 20 years ago in a 43-20 win for the home side. The teams have faced each other twice since then, both in Scotland, with a win apiece in fixtures played in Aberdeen in 2012 and Kilmarnock in 2014.
Saturday’s fixture falls outside the official Test match window which means the majority of the two side’s top players are not available.
However, it is a perfect opportunity for Scotland and Tonga to look at some new players.
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has named eight uncapped players in his matchday squad – with four in the starting xv.
Edinburgh duo Jamie Hodgson and South African-born Pierre Schoeman, as well as Glasgow pair Sione Tuipulotu and Rufus McLean are the new faces in the starting line-up.
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Speaking ahead of what will be the first match for Scotland since their late March win away to France in the Six Nations, Townsand said: “Jamie will bring an edge.
“We love his attitude of getting up and knocking people down. He is a really aggressive player.
“Pierre is in really good physical shape this year. He has lost a bit of weight. He is involved more in attack and defence than we saw last season and he also brings his set-piece power, which will be required this weekend against a very big Tongan team.
“Sione is a really creative player. He likes to get others into the game but he has also got his own power and acceleration. He can be a real connector between the midfield and the back three.
“Rufus makes things happen. He has got real acceleration and evasion. We are also impressed this season with his work off the ball. His kick-chase is outstanding and also his contact work is very good. He brings that work rate that is required at Test level.”
Townsend has chosen co-captains for this Saturday’s series opener as he wants to see both Ali Price and Jamie Ritchie continue their development as leaders. Glasgow scrumhalf Price, 28, and Edinburgh flank Ritchie, 25, will share skipper duties at Murrayfield. It is the first time that Townsend has picked co-captains.
Tonga will also introduce eight new faces, with six debutants in the starting XV.
It is a very difficult period for the Pacific Islanders. They travel to Europe without their head coach Toutai Kefu, who is recovering from a violent attack by intruders in his home in Brisbane, Australia.
Despite his absence, Kefu was heavily involved in the team selection.
Young backs Vaea Vaea and Atunaisa Manu will make their debut came through the Sevens programme in Monaco this year and make their debut with experienced campaigners Loni Uhila & Setofano Funaki.
Other debutantes are Tanginoa Halaifonua, Toma Taufa, Maile Ngauamo and Navarre Haisila.
Players to watch:
For Scotland: Blair Kinghorn has a chance to prove himself in the no.10 jersey. The Glasgow Warrior has big shoes to fill in the absence of star flyhalf Finn Russell. Newcomers Rufus McLean at wing and Sione Tuipulotu at centre are great prospects. In the pack, South African-born Pierre Schoeman will add much-need physicality.
For Tonga: For Tonga: Walter Fifita, who ply his trade in Scotland for Glasgow Warriors, will be out to deliver an incredible performance. Former Warrior Fotu Lokotui is another player who needs to be closely watched, the big flank can make a huge impact with his strong runs. Fresh from the sevens circuit debutants Vaea Vaea and Atunaisa Manu will want to show their lethal skills.
1995: Scotland won 41-5, Pretoria (World Cup Pool match)
2001: Scotland won 43-20, Edinburgh
2012: Tonga won 21-15, Aberdeen
2014: Scotland won 37-12, Kilmarnock
@rugby365com: Scotland by seven points
Scotland: 15 Darcy Graham, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Sione Tuipulotu, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Rufus McLean, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Rob Harley, 4 Jamie Hodgson, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turner, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Oli Kebble, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Luke Crosbie, 21 Nick Haining, 22 Jamie Dobie, 23 Ross Thompson.
Tonga: 15 James Faiva; 14 Atunaisa Manu, 13 Mailetoa Hingano, 12 Vaea Vaea, 11 Walter Fifita; 10 Kurt Morath, 9 Sonatane Takulua (captain), 8 Valentino Mapapalangi, 7 Fotu Lokotui, 6 Tanginoa Halaifonua, 5 Setofano Funaki, 4 Halaleva Fifita, 3 David Lolohea, 2 Maile Ngauamo, 1 Loni Uhila,
Replacements: 16 Suia Maile, 17 Jethro Felemi, 18 Toma Taufa, 19 Dan Faleafa, 20 Onehunga Havili, 21 Mateaki Kafatolu, 22 Aisea Halo, 23 Navarre Haisila.
Date: Saturday, October 30
Venue: BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14.30 (13.30 GMT; 02.30 Sunday, October 31 Tonga time)
Expected Weather: Cold and windy with showers. High of 11°C, low of 6°C
Referee: Nic Berry (RA)
Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy (RA) & Angus Gardner (RA)
TMO: Brett Cronan (RA)
Compiled by Leezil Hendricks