RWC Match Preview: Scotland v Tonga

RWC Match Preview: Scotland v Tonga

A fortnight after they were outmuscled and outpaced by defending champions South Africa in Marseille, Scotland will want to kickstart their Rugby World Cup challenge against Tonga, in Nice – a couple of hours further east along France’s Mediterranean coastline.

Head coach Gregor Townsend has made four changes to his starting side. Prop Rory Sutherland – on his Rugby World Cup debut at the age of 31 – and second-row Scott Cummings come into the pack for Pierre Schoeman and Grant Gilchrist respectively, while centre Chris Harris and wing Kyle Steyn, like Sutherland making his first tournament appearance, start in the backline, with Huw Jones and Darcy Graham dropping to the bench. Ewan Ashman, Sam Skinner and George Horne also come into the match-day 23.

They’ll want a big win over a Tonga side that lost 59-16 against a rampant Ireland in Nantes nearly a week later – the match in which Johnny Sexton became the leading points scorer in Irish international rugby history.

Coach Toutai Kefu has stuck with the same starting XV for this match, with four former All Blacks in full-back Salesi Piutau, centre Malakai Fekitoa, scrum-half Augustine Pulu and number eight Vaea Fifita. But he has made two changes on the bench: bringing in Pat Pellegrini, and ex-Australia international Adam Coleman, who could make his Tongan debut.

FIXTURE: Scotland v Tonga

GROUND: Stade de Nice (35,983)

KICK-OFF: 17:45 local time (GMT+2)


This will be just the sixth time that these two sides have played one another. Scotland have won four of the five matches to date.


Despite having three players sin-binned when the two sides met at Pittodrie, Tonga recorded their first, and to date only, win over Scotland in November 2012, thanks to tries from Lua Lokotui and Fetu’u Vainikolo, as well as 11 points from the boot of Fangatapu Apikotoa. Scotland mustered five Greig Laidlaw penalties in reply – and the match ended 21-15.


Tonga’s players and staff will be the first to admit that they did not give a good account of themselves in their opening match against Ireland in Nantes. And they will be determined to put on a better performance here – but they face a Scotland side that needs a win to stay in touch with Pool B’s top two, the Irish and the Springboks. This is a must-win for Gregor Townsend’s side – but they can expect stern opposition.


Rory Sutherland v Ben Tameifuna. Scotland’s loose-head, on his World Cup debut, and only his second start for the national side in 19 months, goes one on one with Tonga’s captain and a man mountain of a tight-head. That side of the scrum promises to be a battle royal. 


Chris Paterson is the only Scotland player to have taken part in four Rugby World Cups. The last of his national record 15 tournament appearances, against England in Auckland in 2011, was also his final test.


Karl Dickson (England). Former professional scrum-half Dickson started studying for his refereeing qualification while still a player – making his debut as a central match official in a Championship match in December 2016, three days before he was on the bench for the English Premiership match between Harlequins and Gloucester at Twickenham. 


SCOTLAND Blair Kinghorn; Kyle Steyn, Chris Harris, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ben White; Rory Sutherland, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Richie Gray, Scott Cummings; Jamie Ritchie (captain), Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey

Replacements: Ewan Ashman, Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel, Sam Skinner, Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Huw Jones, Darcy Graham

TONGA Salesi Piutau; Solomone Kata, Malakai Fekitoa, Pita Ahki, Afusipa Taumoepeau; William Havili, Augustine Pulu; Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, Paula Ngauamo, Ben Tameifuna (captain); Halaleva Fifita, Sam Lousi; Tanginoa Halaifonua, Sione Talitui, Vaea Fifita

Replacements: 16 Sam Moli, Tau Koloamatangi, Sosefo Apikotoa, Adam Coleman, Semisi Paea, Sione Vailanu, Sonatane Takulua, Patrick Pellegrini

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