Preview: Scotland v Fiji

Date published: November 9 2018

Scotland will be desperate to bounce back from last week’s disappointing performance in defeat to Wales when they host Fiji at Murrayfield.

Saturday’s vital Test sees several household names return to the international team, including Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg. Laidlaw and Russell were missing against the Welsh due to the fixture falling outside the international window while Hogg was out injured.

Gregor Townsend will hope the trio’s return gives his men a much-needed shot in the arm as they look to build ahead of facing South Africa.

Defeat to Fiji would be a hammer blow to the Scots and it’s worth noting the last time they faced them – last year in Suva – they lost out 27-22. However, at home and with a solid side at his disposal, Townsend’s outfit should have enough to avoid back-to-back November losses.

This is by no means a gimme though as any side that includes Semi Radradra, Metui Talebula, Vereniki Goneva, Viliame Mata, Peceli Yato and Leone Nakarawa can cause opposition problems. If the islanders click in what should be an open game, their hopes of a 2017 repeat increase.

“The team are very much looking forward to the challenge against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday,” revealed Fiji head coach John McKee ahead of what is an intriguing international clash. “We had success against Scotland in 2017 in Fiji but that counts for nothing here. We will have to bring our best game if we want to achieve success, as anything less will not be good enough against this Scotland team.”

What has been Fiji’s Achilles heel over the years is their set-piece, with many Tier 1 sides targeting this area in order to escape with victory.

“Scotland have a strong set-piece,” added McKee, whose side are in the same World Cup pool as Australia, Wales, Georgia and Uruguay. “This will be a key area of the game. We will need to match them in the scrum and line-out and stop their maul to be successful in this match.”

Behind the scrum it promises much as a spectacle with both adopting a high tempo style, which is encouraging news for those at Murrayfield.

“They pose huge threats off turnover ball, utilising some of the best individual players, one-on-one, in the world,” warned Scotland coach Townsend as he expects a stern examination for his side this Saturday. “They score more tries than any team in the world off turnover ball, about 66 percent, whereas most teams are under about 10 or 15 percent, so if you repeatedly give them turnover ball it’ll be a tough afternoon.”

Players to watch:

For Scotland: On debut for Scotland will be second-row Sam Skinner, who has impressed for a good while now at Exeter Chiefs. He’ll hope to give his international coach something to think about moving forward with a strong performance alongside Grant Gilchrist. In the backs there’s a chance for Pete Horne to cement a spot in the side, with Huw Jones dropping out and Alex Dunbar moving to 13 in his place.

For Fiji: Edinburgh number eight Viliame Mata will be in familiar surroundings at Murrayfield on Saturday and if he plays like he does for his club then Scotland will have their hands full. The same goes for former Glasgow Warriors second-row Leone Nakarawa, who is always a threat in possession and is renowned for his offloading ability. Keep an eye on both, plus the evergreen wing Vereniki Goneva.

Head-to-head: Speaking of dangerous finishers and Semi Radradra is another lethal Fijian who could punish the Scots. If Alex Dunbar doesn’t contain the Bordeaux-Begles man the hosts will find themselves on the back foot. These two players are powerful runners and their midfield battle is one that whets the appetite. All things considered, Radrada should edge this clash with the neutral hoping he shines.

Previous results:

2017: Fiji won 27-22 in Suva
2012: Scotland won 37-25 in Lautoka
2009: Scotland won 23-10 in Murrayfield
2003: Scotland won 22-20 in Sydney
2002: Scotland won 36-22 in Murrayfield
1998: Fiji won 51-26 in Suva
1993: Scotland won 21-10 in Suva
1989: Scotland won 38-17 in Murrayfield

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Prediction: We expect the hosts to bounce back from last week’s poor performance at the Principality Stadium. Scotland to win by 12.

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Pete Horne, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Jamie Ritchie, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 George Horne, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Chris Harris

Fiji: 15 Setareki Tuicuvu, 14 Metui Talebula, 13 Semi Radradra, 12 Jale Vatabua, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Peceli Yato, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu (c), 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Campese Maafu
Replacements: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Kalivate Tawake, 19 Albert Tuisue, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Henry Seniloli, 22 Alivereti Veitokani, 23 Eroni Vasiteri

Date: Saturday, November 10
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)