Head coach Vern Cotter has made four changes to the Scotland XV that will play Tonga in this Saturday’s viagogo Autumn Test match at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock (kick-off 2.30pm).
The national team are continuing their trend of taking international rugby to pastures new in a globally “ground-breaking” fixture, as an international involving a Tier One country is held on an entirely artificial pitch for the first time. Which should make it slightly softer to land on than the frozen turf of Pittodrie.
All the changes are enforced by injury, reflecting the bruising nature of an encounter with the All Blacks. Tight-head prop Geoff Cross and Number 8 Johnnie Beattie step into the pack for Euan Murray and Adam Ashe, who miss out through thigh and neck injuries respectively.
In the backs, 90-cap Sean Lamont, who played almost 70 minutes against New Zealand as an injury replacement for Mark Bennett and made a good fist of things, gets the nod outside Alex Dunbar while Duncan Taylor comes on to the bench.
Ryan Grant, Alasdair Strokosch and Kieran Low fill the remaining bench slots, although quite who is covering tighthead is a mystery.
The final change sees try monster and sometime defensive liability Tim Visser set to make his first appearance since the summer tour in place of injured Sean Maitland (hamstring).
Head coach Vern Cotter said: “We came very close to the best side in the world last Saturday, which left us very disappointed but, when you look at the content of our performance and what the players did on the paddock, it’d be hard for any coach to be too unhappy.
“The work rate, desire and determination of the squad on the field was excellent.”
The most emotional I’ve seen Stuart Hogg was after the defeat to Tonga two years ago that lost Andy Robinson his job, and no doubt the team will be looking to put things right on Saturday.
Only a confident victory over Tonga, continuing the positive and composed style we’ve seen so far this month, should really be sufficient to call the Autumn a success.
Scotland team to play Tonga: Hogg; Seymour, Lamont, Dunbar, Visser; Russell, Laidlaw (capt); Dickinson, Ford, Cross, R Gray, J Gray, Harley, Cowan, Beattie.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Ryan Grant, K Low, Strokosch, Cusiter, Weir, Taylor.
BONUS: here’s the Glasgow team to face Scarlets (including John Barclay) Friday night, coverage on BBC Alba. All of these players are involved this weekend:
Glasgow Warriors: Peter Murchie, Lee Jones, Richie Vernon, James Downey, Rory Hughes, Peter Horne, Ali Price; Alex Allan, Pat MacArthur, Zander Fagerson, Tom Ryder, Al Kellock (capt), Josh Strauss, Chris Fusaro, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Kevin Bryce, Jon Welsh, Rossouw de Klerk, James Eddie, Tyrone Holmes, Niko Matawalu, Connor Braid, Glenn Bryce.