Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v Tonga: Rugby World Cup 2023, Match Preview pt II – head to heads

Scotland vs Tonga
Scotland vs Tonga - graphic © Scottish Rugby Blog


2023 Rugby World CupSun 24th Sep 2023Stade de Nice, NiceKick-off: 4:45 pm (UK)45-17


Referee: Karl Dickson (RFU)| TV: ITV1/STV

8 of the Scottish 23 played when these sides last met in November 2021.

  • Kyle Steyn bagged a quartet of tries
  • Sione Tuipulotu and Pierre Schoeman made their Test debuts
  • Jamie Ritchie was skipper for the very first time (alongside co-captain, Ali Price)
  • George Turner and Zander Fagerson filled the same number 2 and 3 jerseys
  • Two of the replacements on Sunday, Matt Fagerson and Darcy Graham, both started the Autumn Nations Series fixture

Unsurprisingly, there are very few returnees from a Tongan side that had a bit of a cobbled together feel post-Covid. Lock Leva Fifita and back row Tanginoa Halaifonua also started in that 60-14 defeat at Murrayfield, while veteran half back Sonatane Takulua (whose history with the Scots stretches back to a game at Rugby Park in 2014) will be on the bench this time round.

In fact, in the ʻIkale Tahi’s lineup for Sunday, there are more players who have played against (and beaten) Scotland for other nations than that trio who have previously featured against the dark blues in Tongan colours.

  • In November 2014, a New Zealand side that included Malakai Fekitoa and Salesi Piutau in the starting lineup, as well as Augustine Pulu on the bench, defeated Scotland 24-16 at Murrayfield.
  • Vaea Fifita was also part of a winning All Blacks lineup, this time in 2017 when he started at blindside flanker up against a Scottish back row of John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Cornell du Preez.
  • Adam Coleman played twice for Australia against the Scots, winning at Murrayfield in 2016 but losing in Sydney in 2017.

4 changes to Scotland’s starting XV from last Test (v South Africa)

  • 14 – Steyn for Graham [=]
  • 13 – Harris for Jones [-]
  • 1 – Sutherland for Schoeman [-]
  • 5 – Cummings for Gilchrist [=]

No changes to Tonga’s starting XV from last Test (v Ireland)


Blair Kinghorn
Kyle Steyn*
Duhan van der Merwe
Salesi Piutau
Afusipa Taumoepau
Solomone Kata
2nd time this unit has started together for Scotland
Average weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age


The one tweak to the Scottish back 3 means that the two wingers who have been near ever-present in 2023 are back in tandem. Kyle Steyn has started 9 out of 11 Tests this year for Scotland while Duhan van der Merwe has started 10 of the 11.

The wide men who started against South Africa – van der Merwe and Darcy Graham – only managed 10 carries and 58 metres made between them. The dark blues will be looking for at least double the number of carries and at least 150m (more likely 200m plus) from the wings in what should be a far more open game versus Tonga.

Getting Blair Kinghorn involved could also be a big factor in taking some of the pressure off Finn Russell. The Edinburgh full back / stand off only made a single pass against the Springboks. While his kicking game combined in a very Stuart Hogg-esque fashion with Russell, Kinghorn needs to take on more of an extra distributor role to fully replace Scotland’s legendary number 15.


Chris Harris
Sione Tuipulotu
Malakai Fekitoa
Pita Akhi
4th time this unit has started together for Scotland
Average weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age


This will be a tough test for the Scots pairing, taking on a current Top 14 champion in Pita Akhi and URC winner, Malakai Fekitoa. Gregor Townsend has chosen to mix up his duo – this will be the first time in 2023 that Sione Tuipulotu will play at 12 (for club or country) with anyone other than Huw Jones outside him.

Scotland’s inability to get Tuipulotu involved in the distributing side of the game was another contributing factor to the attack being smothered by South Africa. The inside centre would normally expect to have made 10+ passes in a game but only managed 3 versus the Springboks as his usual interchanging with Finn Russell at first receiver was stifled by relentless defensive linespeed.

Outside Tuipulotu, Chris Harris will provide a direct runner in attack to try and hold the Tongan line. His main contribution though may well be to try and shut down that classy Sea Eagles’ centre combination. Ireland were able to make Akhi and Fekitoa pretty much a non-factor in their encounter in Round 1 and as a result, Tonga’s backs never really got into that game.


Finn Russell
Ben White
William Havili
Augustine Pulu
8th time this unit has started together for Scotland
Average weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age


The ball did get into Finn Russell’s hands 56 times against South Africa (37 passes, 12 kicks, 7 carries) but he was under so much pressure that much of his afternoon was spent dropping the ball off to a forward on a short carry and rarely getting the chance to launch the defence-splitting pass (or kick) that he specialises in.

It’s a conundrum that the Scots will face in 2 weeks’ time when they come up against an Irish pack that will slow their possession and whose defensive linespeed won’t be far off that of the Springboks. Sunday night’s opposition will provide a different threat but given the jeopardy in this game, in many ways, Tonga will be no less dangerous to Scotland’s World Cup ambitions.

Finn should have a bit more space to work so the key becomes his ability to make the best decision in each set of circumstances. If he gets it right the Tongan defence is likely to be picked apart. If he doesn’t, a stuttering Scottish attack will find the physicality of their opponents a real challenge to live with.


Rory Sutherland*
George Turner
Zander Fagerson
Siegfried Fisi’ihoi
Paula Ngauamo
Ben Tameifuna (c)
5th time this unit has started together for Scotland
Total weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age


The November Test against Tonga in 2021 was the debut outing for what has become Scotland’s first choice front row of Pierre Schoeman, George Turner and Zander Fagerson. Prior to Schoeman’s first cap in that game, Rory Sutherland had been pretty much unassailed as the number 1 loosehead in the first half of the World Cup cycle, with a run of form that took him to Test caps on the Lions’ tour of South Africa,

This will be just the 4th start for Sutherland in the dark blues’ last 22 matches, while conversely Schoeman will be unleashed from the bench for just the 2nd time in that same period, during which he has also started on 18 occasions.

Remarkably this will be Rory’s first ever RWC outing – he was a late call-up in 2015 but didn’t play and missed out completely in 2019. He will face an enormous test at scrum time in the shape of Tonga’s gigantic skipper, Ben Tameifuna. The tighthead averaged 51 minutes per start for his club, Bordeaux, during 2022/23 so he’s there for a good time, not a long time but if he can get the upper hand at the setpiece it will curtail Scotland’s options and provide Tonga with a great platform for territory and their own attacking ambitions.


Richie Gray
Scott Cummings
Leva Fifita
Sam Lousi
1st time this unit has started together for Scotland
Total weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age


All four of these players spent last season in the URC with Glasgow Warriors (x2), Connacht and Scarlets respectively, so they will have plenty of previous analysis of each other’s games to fall back on. In defence, Richie Gray and Sam Lousi will be the workhorses, expected to get through plenty of tackles. In attack, Scott Cummings and Leva Fifita will be primary carriers, with their lock partners doing much of the donkey work clearing rucks.

As mentioned in Part 1 of the preview, both these sides had troubles at the lineout and how well their main jumpers and callers are able to solve these problems will go a long way to dictating how good the attacking ball is that’s presented to their backs on Sunday.


Jamie Ritchie (c)
Rory Darge
Jack Dempsey
Tanginoa Halaifonua
Sione Havili
Vaea Fifita
4th time this unit has started together for Scotland
Total weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age


This will be the 4th match in a row for the Scottish trio and that increased familiarity in game situations should hopefully mean that their performances continue to grow as the intensity of the fixtures reaches a crescendo.

Jack Dempsey – who has started 7 out of the last 8 at number 8 – has become the go-to carrier – and a very effective one at that. He needs some support though in order to spread the load and also to keep the defence guessing rather than being able to double up on Dempsey. Against the Springboks, Jack was the only forward to manage 10+ carries (Pierre Schoeman made 5 while nobody else made more than 3).

The 49 metres with ball in hand for the Glasgow number 8 ended up being the vast majority of the production in this stat for Scotland. His 12 colleagues in the pack who played some part in the match against South Africa only managed 16 metres combined. That’s simply not going to be sustainable, no matte the opposition at this World Cup. Carriers like Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings and Rory Darge simply must be far more involved this time around, even if Dempsey continues to take the leading role.


Ewan Ashman*
Pierre Schoeman

WP Nel
Sam Skinner*
Matt Fagerson
Samiuela Moli
Tau Kolamatangi

Joe Apikotoa
Adam Coleman
Semisi Paea
Sione Vailanu
54 previous sub appearances by this group for Scotland
Average weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age

There should be plenty of banter flowing when Sione Vailanu gets on the pitch to take on his Glasgow teammates Jack Dempsey (11 starts together in 2022/23); Matt Fagerson (9); and Rory Darge (6). The giant back row has turned his excellent form for the Warriors into a deserved recall to his national side. Hopefully making Sione a happy and contented player doesn’t come back to bite Scottish rugby on Sunday!


George Horne
Huw Jones
Darcy Graham

Sonatane Takulua
Patrick Pellegrini*
31 previous sub appearances by this group for Scotland
Average weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age


Darcy Graham will make his first appearance from the bench (for either club or country) since March 2021. George Horne is in line for his 3rd outing as replacement in a World Cup for Scotland – no other player has made more as substitute scrum half (Rory Lawson and Chris Cusiter also 3).

Aggregates for the 23s:

Total weight
Total caps
RWC matches
Average age


* RWC debut
N.B. Appearances, tries etc. are for all capped internationals including those played for other nations or the B&I Lions


– At 692kgs, this is the heaviest backline ever named during the Townsend era (72 matches).

– 6 forwards from Glasgow as starters are the most for any game in the Townsend era. 1 Edinburgh forward being selected in the starting pack has only happened in 2 other games during this period.

– 12 players from Tonga’s XV plied their trade in one of the Northern Hemisphere’s top leagues (Premiership, Top 14 and URC) last season. The exceptions were half back pairing Augustine Pulu (Japan Rugby League One) and William Havili Super Rugby as well as back row Sione Havili (Super Rugby).

– The only members of Scotland’s original 33-man RWC squad not to be included in their opening 2 fixtures are tighthead prop Javan Sebastian, back rows Luke Crosbie and Hamish Watson, with Ben Healy the only back yet to make a 23. Stuart McInally joined up with the squad following the South Africa game and is likely to join that quartet with some involvement in the game against Romania next weekend.

– 13 of the Tongan lineup are aged 30+, compared to 6 over 30s for the Scots. WP Nel will again be the oldest man on either team to take to the pitch when he is launched from the bench.

If you missed Part 1 – previous meetings, scouting report and more – check it out here.

59 Responses

  1. Excellent as always Kevin. Assume Harris has been put to combat Fekitoa, which feels unnecessarily negative to me. Good to see Harris back though – he’s gone from absolute joke to world class defensive operator and touring Lion to realiable B-team member in seemingly no time at all.

  2. Helluva game between Georgia and Portugal. At least Pool C’s had the common decency to be enormous fun. Pool D has been dog manure. Bang average teams playing tedious, safe rugby and still making more mistakes than a catholic bedroom. Truly the kids table of world rugby.

  3. Ireland just won but overwhelming thought for me is that both teams played with an intensity that we just cant match. Guess there is always a chance but not somehow doubt it

  4. Not 100% sure but we’re the ref decisions going more towards Ireland? They were killing ball at rucks openly and got away with it. Offside line hardly applied. SA paid for not having a goal kicker

    1. Pretty much nailed it. You could see from the overhead camera that Ireland were blatantly offside at the ruck but never called it once.And he blew his whistle at the end for ball not coming out when it was in the SA scrum half’s hands.

      1. Agreed, the SH had the ball in his hands and was starting to step back with it when the ref blew for not coming out. The ref was standing close to the SH so clearly saw this. Says it all to me

      2. One way to sort that out would be to give responsibility to the TMO to call offside and alert the ref. Surely they can use the overhead camera with some technology to flag when players are offside at the ruck. I can imagine it’s hard for refs to keep an eye on everything around them – this would take some pressure off and stop teams from deliberately being offside at rucks.

        I’m really dismayed at the inconsistency in officiating. If Ben O’Keefe had ref’d our game against SA then we may have got some more joy. It just felt like Angus Gardner gave us nothing and yesterday it seemed Ireland were getting more joy from O’Keefe.

    2. Certainly towards the end the ref seemed to be favouring Ireland. There were clearly a couple of knock-ons that were not given in the extended lead-up to Ireland’s final penalty and the ref appeared desperate to blow the whistle at close of play with SA encamped on Ireland’s line. The moving the ball back by SA into Reinach’s hands after the maul went down (illegally?) was less than 3 seconds yet the ref could be heard saying it never came out! The O’ Keefe family back home must be mightily relieved!

      1. Irish player at the last maul is clearly on the ground hauling the ruck down, but the ref can’t wait to blow time up.
        Can’t understand why Ireland have played three games before Scotland play their second.

  5. Ireland got many calls their way…and got fortunate SA didn’t have Marx available to play.

    Well thats us out…..after 1 game…never mind 4. We’d have to win all 3 games by more points that you could poke a stick at.

    Would have been nice to have the same ref in our game v Sth Africa….someone who actually penalized offside and coming in at the wrong side etc.

    Just a terrible pool draw for us …Any other pool Ive no doubt we’d be in it. As someone suggested….we just haven’t shown we can play at that intensity for 80 mins…we play for 1/2 a match under GT.

    Totally flattened the Tonga match.

  6. As has been said, we are on the way home and haven’t fired a shot. Got to feel for the team, all that work in training and it’s all been for nothing. The blame lies with the board who decided upon this draw. The draw being bad enough, the dates are the icing on the cake, for Ireland to get 3 games out of the way when we have played one leaves us doing the maths before we’ve even got into the tournament. The 2 teams out there tonight played with an intensity we cant match , it was like a final. We may not match them but we are not far behind. All will be revealed tomorrow. We need to beat Tonga with the bonus point to feel vindicated with our gripes on the draw.
    Still think the better team lost, but maybe tainted because we needed a Saffers win. But they left 11 points out there and Ireland committed the kinds of foul play that the all blacks would be proud of.

  7. The bottom line is that Scotland will not reach the intensity of either Ireland or South Africa. Ireland are number 1 team in the world for 15 months for a reason, They have much more cohesiveness as a team than most teams.

  8. I may be wrong but isn’t it points then result against the teams on same points?

    So 2 x BP then win v Ireland (depriving them of a BP) will do it.

    Fairly unlikely but………

  9. They will not be as rusty as their opening game. I think we will have problems in the front row. Should be a full points based on this analysis. Tonight’s performance was enough to convince me the world number 1 and 2 are in a league of their own.

  10. And we’re almost out if the world cup after one match…the worst result tonight for our hopes…it means South Africa (with the points against Romania and a likely 5 point win coming against Tonga) will have 15 points…we can only hope we have 10 at kick off against Ireland.

    We then need to beat Ireland by more than 7 and we qualify 2nd place and Ireland go out….clearly their is no evidence of this happening but it puts Ireland in a delicate position no one seemed to be aware of…would be a very Scotland way to go out of the world cup for Ireland. Would be anazing should it happen

    1. Correct me if I’m wrong but if we simply beat Ireland and neither us or them get a BP, we would be tied on 14 points – assuming Scottish BPs vs Tonga and Romania – and it would then be decided on overall points difference which I suspect Ireland would probably win. So only a BP win in next 3 matches while also denying Ireland anything in our last game would guarantee runner up spot? Not theoretically impossible but would take the best Scottish performance ever and then some to get through. And then the likes of Wales and England get a relatively clear route to the quarters …… Hoping next year’s 6N is when we can settle some old scores.

      1. I believe if 2 countries are tied its decided on the result between the teams.
        So full bonus points v Tonga and Romania and then beat Ireland by 8 (or more) and don’t let them score 4 tries

      2. Yup, looks like I got the points difference thing wrong, which makes things marginally better – only need to beat the No 1 ranked team, the same side we’ve not looked like beating for a while and with a bit of daylight in the scores; easy????. Will 6N table work that way next year, or has it been that way for a while and it’s just not been relevant?

  11. We can only hope that we secure a BP win against Tonga, it’s not a given. We have put out a team to contain Tonga (bench not included) and rightly so, the pacific island teams are always capable of providing an upset. It all hinges on this tonight. Get through this then a BP win against Romania is a given. If we don’t win big tonight then we deserve to go home and can complain about the draw no more. BP win -Then we can dream. In a way our hopes of making the quarters always depended on beating Ireland or SA, sure the Saffers game with them being ‘cold’ was probably the easier choice. So now it’s Ireland, I don’t think anyone believes we will beat them with a winning bonus point but it will be a tight, nervy game which both teams need to win, it could easily go either way. Our scrum will have parity, last night showed their lineout isn’t guaranteed, we will get ball to play with. Are our boys capable of that step up and winning whilst denying them a bonus?…..
    It’s the hope that kills you!

    1. Agreed. We cannot start looking at the Ireland game. Fail to get a tbp today and it really is all over.

  12. This whole scenario is so Scottish. I’m sure it will come down to a 93th minute Secton penalty.

  13. I am still annoyed about the pool draw. On current ratings teams like England or Wales should have been in pool B with South Africa and Ireland. We have no hope whatsoever of getting through to the next round. The draw was based on standings three years ago and doesn’t reflect current ratings. Of course, World Rugby say the draw must be made early to allow teams to research the opposition they will face in the Group stages. Now here’s a controversial idea, why isn’t the draw made the week before the tournament, like Wimbledon? That would be a true measure of teams’ ability to play unrehearsed rugby!

    1. That’s the thing: South Africa and Ireland shouldn’t be in the same pool. Tbf it’s really unfair on them too – playing one of the most intense matches of all time for the right to play New Zealand in the quarters.

  14. Well we are in a corner now that’s for sure. I know the refereeing last night was a tad idiosyncratic to say the least

    But that’s not Irelands problem and I suppose when you are the No. 1 team on the planet little things go your way. As has been said elsewhere we cannot match the levels of those two last night over 80 minutes . But. I still think a lot to play for. Let’s show the world we can play. Two bonus point win now a must and then let’s see

  15. Yep, we’re boned. Even if we were evenly matched with Ireland, which we aren’t, they’re already in recovery for the game. We still have two more games to play before then.

    There is only one, tiny glimmer of hope we can cling to. It’s Ireland, and it’s the RWC. Their extraordinary capacity to underachieve in the tournament is the stuff of legend. Sure, they could still crash out in the quarters to the Kiwis. But their methods of failure have grown steadily more hilarious over the years, from last minute squeakers against the eventual champions, through increasingly unbelievable losses to Argentina, to the masterpiece in 2019, coming in as the undisputed best team in the world, losing to Japan and being humped by the all blacks.

    How do they top that? There’s really only one way. Beat the world champions in one of the most intense matches ever, proving in-tournament you’re the best team in the world, before going out to a team they haven’t come close to losing to in seven years and eight games.

    Their commitment to RWC comedy is our last best hope. Rob Herring was the first to wobble – the Irish lineout was so much better with Van Der Flier at 2. It would just take a few more to get the jitters, and all of a sudden….

    (Yeah, no, I’m kidding. We’re super-boned.)

  16. John you are absolutely right

    “Tie-breaking criteria for pool play
    The ranking of tied teams in the pool stage is determined as follows:[15]
    The winner of the Match in which the two tied Teams have played each other shall be the higher ranked.”

    Tall order beating the bloody Irish and then restricting them to no bonus points but at least, provided the next two are BP wins it’s in our hands – as simple as that guys.

    1. Ian, we can whine about how the group was picked, the fixtures ….. but it was our fault (losing to Japan in a terrible RWC 2019).
      To go through it was always the case that we would need to beat SA ir Ireland….so be it

  17. I never really paid much attention to the match scheduling before but surely it’s ridiculous that Ireland and SA have played 3 games and we have only played 1? We are essentially out of the WC despite having only played 1 match! Mental.

    1. Nowhere near good enough but the refereeing decisions are all over the place. One red card in a tier 1 v tier 1 could make a difference.

  18. yes main job done of getting 5 points, but we lacked the clinical edge that would have given us another 20 points or so

  19. Job done with win…but we still don’t look good enough to beat Ireland. It’ll be the usual….Ireland come out firing …we need 30 mins and a cuddle to start playing…and it’ll be catchup rugby and us making erratic mistakes. I doubt it’ll be close.

    We let ourselves down against SA …if we could at least have got a LBP we had more of a chance.

    Lineout went from good to wobbly…Kinghorn? im not convinced that Ollie Smith isn’t a better option at FB. Seems a more assured all around player to me.

    Horne is a better SH than White and changes how we play for the better. I don’t get why White is a stick on for GT.

    Apparently refs don’t want to give a red card to any Scotland opposition …its beyond ridiculous and infuriating.

  20. The amount of handling errors, particularly knock-ons is very concerning. Every re-start we seem to knock on. VDM goes up to try and pat it backwards and it invariably goes forward. Kinghorn has also been suspect under the high ball. Think we flattered to deceive towards the end when Tonga ran out of steam and the game broke up.

  21. looks like Eddie Jones days may be numbered. Also looks like one of England or Wales will make the final, which is very annoying and a result of the ridiculous draw

  22. The Annoying thing is, Wales looked a team no one will want to play against.
    In a few short months, Gatland has taken a very poor Welsh team, added some young blood, named a young captain, sent them to fitness training camps and they are transformed. It’s not pretty to watch, they are a bit like France and South Africa – hoof the ball to the opposition , let them throw it around , smother them with defence until they drop it then hey presto get a counter attacking try or build with 3 pointers.
    Meanwhile in Scotland we have a coach who has been building a team and style for 8 years and we still want to throw it around from minute 1-80 despite the numerous handling errors.
    That new Welsh team beat Australia last night , a team who beat us last time out.
    Makes you wonder what we’ve been doing and why.

    1. Steady on sir, Australia were absolutely abysmal, furthermore we slaughtered Wales no that long ago. AND we have beaten France in France, repeatedly beaten England and played some quite exhilarating stuff over last couple of years. Ranked 5th. We have also been drawn in the worst group possible
      If you read my comments you can see I’m no SRU apologist but credit where credit is due sir

      1. I am no wales fan , I was rooting for Australia last night. and although they ended up looking ‘abysmal’ They played some good stuff for the first 30 minutes, running everything, Forwards making some hard yards, backs showing great handling skills. It kept breaking down in the opposite 22 due to Welsh pressure and eventually demoralised the team leading to the end result. It reminded me very much of Scottish performances in recent years. I just think we aren’t capable of forcing errors the way Wales do and we have no planB when chucking it wide fails.

    2. ha ha ha oh my lord !

      Wales are mince. They are uninspired dull grey mince. They just came up against an Australian side that are even worse and just put the worst performance by a tier 1 side I’ve seen since Argentina vs England in round 1.

      Scotland would beat this Wales side comfortably. We lost to a superb South African side that were better than us but that on another day and a fair wind ref-fing wise we could have beaten. Tonga showed today a far fairer representation of themselves than the shadow they mustered in round 1 coming in cold vs Ireland.

      If we have to be negative about Scotland then blame World Rugby for the farce of a draw and the refereeing of the blatant red cards. Our lineout needs some work and quickly.

      Kinghorn, Sione and Darcy when he came on were excellent ! Onwards. Use the rest of this WC as a warm up for the main event…..6N 2024 champions !

      1. We’ll see about Wales in the Six Nations. They’re for sure improving, but they also deserved to lose to Fiji and laboured to a last-minute bonus point against Portgual.

        I don’t get as well why any team getting any kind of result against anyone automatically reflects badly on Scotland. People saying “why can’t we be like Wales” after their first decent showing in year against a totally demoralised Australia outfit? ffs

      2. I have commented before on the lamentable draw and totally agree about the SA game. I just feel we are unable to exert the pressure and cause the mistakes the way the Welsh do and we have no planB when chucking it around fails.
        We are no longer the ‘hard to beat’ team we were even 1 year ago as everyone seems to be able to score tries against us.
        I’m not so sure we will beat Wales next time around.

      3. We were too easy for SA to contain and never looked liked scoring a try, even if we’d played for a week. Which is where the lack of a plan B is a problem.

        I’d also highlight, though, that SA also had no plan B for the Irish defence.

        Would it be worth Finn or Kinghorn practicing for drop goals? You saw the way it demoralised Argentina in their game v England. Perhaps if we took 3 every time we got within a sniff of the Irish 22 they knew we’d get points it would cause them to think again and create options elsewhere? Although why it would force them to change a rush defence I don’t know.

      4. No mystery to our dropping off in terms of defence. A year ago Harris ceased being first choice. He had spent the previous three years covering a multitude of sins, and getting dogs abuse from a section of the fans for his trouble.

        Not that I’m saying he should be first choice, I’m team huipilotu all the way. But there’s always a trade-off.

        As for Wales next year – they’ve certainly had a confidence boost, and they’re back in Cardiff, where we still haven’t beaten them since 2002. First game of the year, likely to set up both teams for what their 2024 will be like. I’m backing Scotland though.

  23. Not completely compelling performance but it reminds us we can score tries, and Scotland can I think beat anyone on their day. Lineout was much better, they need to solidify it in training especially as the Ireland line out is not perfect by any means. High ball practice, and more highball practice, Ireland will likely target BK with Lowe all over him. Personally I’d start with Horne, Huipuloto pairing, Graham for our fastest pace attacking game. Also start with Sutherland who carried well, and bring on Schoe in our version of bomb squad. Maybe also start Watson before Darge. (tbh Ritchie was the weakest of the back rowers, some sloppy handling, but he does bring good leadership). Can’t wait, bought tickets for the Ireland game long before I realised it would be potentially the match of the tournament. (If the team need any extra motivation it’s surely seeing Sexton exit at the pool stage, bah ha ha ha.)

  24. Assuming that we beat Romania and scoop a TBP in doing so, we need to do one of the following to qualify:

    Beat Ireland by more than 7 points with neither side getting a TBP; or

    Beat Ireland by any score (a single point would do) and get a try bonus point as long as they don’t also get a TBP.

    Can it be done? Maybe aye, maybe naw…

  25. Always had to beat South Africa or Ireland. Didn’t fire a shot first time round. Would hope this group of players leave it all out there on the field.

  26. Gaffer, wales were saved by the referre v Fiji and I still think Australia were poor rather than Wales were good.
    I do agree that once the expansive stuff doesn’t work we are often at a loss what to do, maybe we lack the personal / instead physicality to do it.

    I have advocated for a kicking option at 15 (Hastings) to add a kicking option, 50-22 is a brilliant attacking option.

    Still……. the likelihood is we will be in exactly the situation we thought we’d be in (having to beat either SA or Ireland) to progress

    1. I think we do have that plan B and I am not sure we “chuck it about” as much as people think. Finn has one of the best tactical boots in the game as evidenced by some immense kicks vs Tonga but even he must think why bother with the boot even with 50/22s when our lineout is misfiring. That one in the Tonga corner was inexcusable !

    2. You are so right about the ref in the Fiji game. I’m no Welsh fan and was shouting for Fiji and Oz. Just felt the the smothering defence forced Australia into all kinds of trouble last night in a way that we can’t. Although I think we are a better team currently than wales I don’t think we would have beaten Australia by the margin the Welsh did last night. We would be too busy throwing it wide and running the ball from everywhere with Oz doing likewise we’d cancel each other out.

  27. Angerine,
    Harris is a solid whole hearted centre but not in the same class as Huw Jones, Scotland need a 13 who can play as an attacking outlet and Jones is superb.
    Harris was badly at fault for one of the Tonga tries the other day.
    I think there has been a wee bit of an over reaction to us losing to the world champions (and stylistically our worst match up).
    Bonus point on Saturday and would knows what can happen.
    Finally it appears (from some of the posts above) that Wales are back on their rise to their rightful place as rugby royalty

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion