Preview: Fiji v Scotland

Date published: June 15 2012

The knowledge that defeat to Fiji or Samoa next week would undo all their great work at Hunter Stadium should spur on Scotland.

The knowledge that defeat against Fiji or Samoa next week would undo all their great work at Hunter Stadium should spur on Scotland in Lautoka.

Horrible conditions for expansive rugby created a dogged affair between the Scots and Wallabies as the away pack, starring Ross Rennie, earned victory. Greig Laidlaw's late penalty saw Andy Robinson's outfit claim what was a priceless result to savour after a disappointing Six Nations.

Now they face up to back-to-back fixtures against the islanders from Fiji and then Samoa on June 23, with a hat-trick of wins very much now the aim.

Robinson was handed a boost to his squad this week when Tim Visser finally qualified for the national side after what's seemed like an age of waiting. Visser's inclusion adds a serious threat to the back-line as he was recently crowned the PRO12 Players' Player of the Year for the 2011/12 season while he also picked up the competition's leading try-scorer gong for the third straight year, taking his haul to 36 in 56 appearances.

Visser will enjoy much better conditions than that of last week too as tropical heat is forecast in Lautoka, but the Scots will face an attack-minded side, with Mike Blair saying they would need to muster a huge defensive effort, similar to the one that got them home in Australia.

“We're very aware of the strength the Fijians have got,” he said.

“We've watched their last two games in Japan (in the Pacific Nations Cup) and they have incredible offloading skills, so our tackles have to be spot on.”

The Scots have only lost once in seven previous meetings with Fiji, a 51-26 defeat in Suva in 1998 that the tourists at the time blamed on unfamiliarity with the humid conditions in the Fijian capital. So in a bid to ensure no repeat this time around, they arrived last Monday.

It has been a long wait for Fiji to host a Six Nations team as Italy, back in 2006, were the last nation from the championship to make it to the island and Fijian captain Netani Talei said the hosts were keen to make the most of such a rare opportunity against a northern side.

“I told the boys 'make use of the time and whatever you do come out hard, you'll never get this opportunity to play a tier one nation at home again',” said the Edinburgh number eight, who has been one of the stand-outs in the RaboDirect PRO12 and Heineken Cup this year.

“Having tier one nations coming in opens the gates for everything – for contracts for the local boys, sponsorships and more teams looking at us and saying 'oh yes, they've improved.' Winning this weekend will be a massive, massive achievement for us.”

Scotland have been warned.

Players to watch:

For Fiji: Of course Netani Talei is massively important of this Fijian line-up but we have gone for Wereniki Goneva, who recently signed for Leicester Tigers in the Aviva Premiership from French club Tarbes. The centre or wing should cause plenty of problems to the Scottish back-line and Richard Cockerill will no doubt be an interested observer back in the East Midlands. Also keep an eye on Fiji's powerful second-row forward Apisai Naikatini.

For Scotland: No doubt about this one as Tim Visser will add so much to what has been a side struggling to finish off chances. His try record speaks for itself in the RaboDirect PRO12 and also for the Barbarians and his ability to be in the right place at the right time should give Scotland the edge they have been longing for. Other players to watch against the islanders at Churchill Park are centre Matt Scott and electric full-back Stuart Hogg.

Head-to-head: Edinburgh meets Glasgow at number eight on Saturday as Netani Talei faces off with John Barclay. These two know each other inside out and it will be interesting to see how usual openside Barclay attempts to stop the powerful Fijian forward at source.

Previous results:

2009: Scotland won 23-10 in Edinburgh
2003: Scotland won 22-20 in Sydney
2002: Scotland won 36-22 in Edinburgh

Prediction: This is not a full-strength Fijian line-up so Scotland to cruise by 18!

The teams:

Fiji: 15 Isimeli Koniferedi, 14 Waisea Nayacalevu, 13 Wereniki Goneva, 12 Aloisio Buto, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Jonetai Ralulu, 9 Nikola Matawalu, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Malakai Ravulo, 6 Iliese Ratuva, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisai Naikatini, 3 Setefano Somoca, 2 Viliame Veikoso, 1 Jeremaia Yanuyanutawa.
Replacements: 16 Tuatpati Talemaitoga, 17 Waisea Daveta/Graham Dewes, 18 Josefa Domolailai, 19 Kelepi Ketedromo, 20 Nemia Kenatale, 21 Kameli Ratuvou, 22 Metuisela Talebula.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Max Evans, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Mike Blair, 8 John Barclay, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Alastair Kellock, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford (c), 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Geoff Cross, 18 Tom Ryder, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Duncan Weir, 22 Sean Lamont.

Date: Saturday, June 16
Venue: Churchill Park, Lautoka
Kick-off: 14.00 (02:00 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith, Andrew Lees (both Australia)