Fiji v Scotland, Summer Tests 2017 – match preview

KO 3.30am (2.30pm local time)
Saturday 24th June
ANZ Stadium, Suva

Live streaming at http://www.scottishrugby.org/scottish-rugby-live
Match can be viewed later at https://www.facebook.com/worldrugby

After Singapore and Sydney now it’s the turn of Suva to host Scotland on their sibilant summer tour.

  • The only teams from the Six Nations or the Rugby Championship to visit Fiji for a Test match in the last 19 years are Scotland and Italy.
  • The Italians have travelled to Suva and Lautoka 4 times in that period (2000, 2006, 2014 and 2017) and have lost on each occasion.
  • Scotland won on their last trip in 2012 in a match played in Lautoka (but lost in 1998 in Suva)
  • Fiji have won 10 of their 13 home matches since their last game against Scotland.

Starting XV stats:
Backs

Average age – FIJ 27.6   SCO 27.3
Test caps – FIJ 60   SCO 132
Tries – FIJ 10   SCO 24

Forwards
Average age – FIJ 30.1   SCO 29.2
Test caps – FIJ 231   SCO 285
Pack weights – FIJ 900kg   SCO 909kg

FIJI
15 K. Murimurivalu
14 Josua Tuisova
13 Albert Vulivuli
12 Jale Vatubua
11 Patrick Osborne
10 Ben Volavola
9 S. Vularika
HEAD-TO-HEAD
ADV Fiji
EVEN
ADV Fiji
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
EVEN
ADV Scotland
SCOTLAND
15 Ruaridh Jackson
14 Damien Hoyland
13 Nick Grigg
12 Duncan Taylor
11 Tim Visser
10 Peter Horne
9 Henry Pyrgos

1 Peni Ravai
2 Sunia Koto
3 Kalivati Tawake
4 Tevita Cavubati
5 Leone Nakarawa
6 D. Waqaniburotukula
7 Peceli Yato
8 Akapusi Qera (c)
.
ADV Fiji
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Fiji
ADV Scotland
ADV Fiji
ADV Scotland

1 Alex Allan
2 Ross Ford
3 WP Nel
4 Tim Swinson
5 Jonny Gray
6 John Barclay (c)
7 John Hardie
8 Josh Strauss

16 T Taelmaitoga
17 J. Veitayaki
18 Mosese Ducivaki
19 Sikeli Nabou
20 Naulia Dawai
.
21 Henry Seniloli
22 John Stewart
23 Benito Masilevu

ADV Scotland

ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
.
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
.

16 Fraser Brown
17 Gordon Reid
18 Zander Fagerson
19 Ben Toolis
20 Hamish Watson
21 Ryan Wilson
22 Ali Price
23 Greig Tonks
.

Team talk

  • With possibly even as few as 4 of Gregor Townsend’s first choice XV starting the game the gap between the 2 sides may not be quite as wide as might be expected. The benches could well prove crucial though with Scotland able to call on far more strength in depth. The role of the subs will be essential given temperatures nearing 30C and humidity at 80%.
  • Big congratulations to Ross Ford who becomes the most capped Scotsman in history on Saturday. As inspiration for the future his opposite number in Suva will be Sunia Koto Vuli who turned 37 in April. 4 more years Fordy!
  • Congratulations also to Nick Grigg who will make his Scotland debut just 9 months after his first ever pro start for Glasgow.
  • No Niko Matawalu (ex-Glasgow) or Viliame Mata (Edinburgh) in the Fijian 23 but there is a chance for the 13 Scots who played alongside Leone Nakarawa with the Warriors to (try to) tackle their former teammate.

Fiji scouting report

Trying to predict what Fiji might do? That way madness lies. It wouldn’t be the first time OTOTM’s sanity has been questioned though so onwards with a look at what the recent match with Australia might tell us about Scotland’s hosts on Saturday.

  • Orchestrating offloads
    Unsurprisingly Fiji threw more than twice as many offloads as their Australian opponents (22 to 10). The main conductor among the chaos was of course Leone who offloaded 10 times. Added to his 15 passes he distributed the ball more than the rest of Fijian pack combined (including subs). Scotland will have to try and contain the former Fijiweegie by cutting off his passing lanes and targeting his arms to try and force turnovers (easier said than done!)
  • Disruption derby
    In spite of the Fijian penchant for for speculative passes they actually turned the ball over less than their opponents in Sydney. That was partly due to inaccuracy from Australia but it was also heavily influenced by Fiji breaking up the game, scavenging and making life awkward. Scotland need to be precise in everything they do, especially when they make it into the Fijian 22.
  • Centre of attention
    The Fijian midfield is fairly inexperienced at Test level. Vatubua demonstrated something of a head down and charge approach to attack – he touched the ball 8 times and ran each time, no passes and no kicks. Outside centre Vulivuli somehow managed to play 68 minutes in Australia and only attempt a single tackle (which he missed). This will be an area Scotland will look to target with the talent available to them in the centres.
  • Stable setpiece
    Fiji’s scrum and lineout are far more reliable than they have been in the past. They demonstrated during the World Cup in England that they could hang in with the Tier 1 nations at scrum time. In Naka they can call upon one of the pre-eminent lineout athletes in the world. That being said they did lose 3 of their own scrums against Australia a fortnight ago and with WP Nel looking to take 8 months of frustration out on this summer’s tour matches this is an area where forwards coach, Dan McFarland will expect his men to come out on top.
  • Can I kick it? No you can’t
    Fiji only kicked 7 times against Australia, opting to keep ball in hand as much as possible. If they continue that pattern it means less counter-attacking opportunities for Scotland (although this may be no bad thing given the rather makeshift nature of the Scottish back 3). The flip side though is if the Fijian kicking game is lacking then there will be chances for Scotland to force them back deep into their own half and try to force errors that will set up good field position and scoring opportunities.

Previous results
The 2 countries have met 6 times previously in full capped internationals with the head to head from a Scottish perspective being:

W W W W W

Last meeting – ANZ Stadium, Suva (16th June 2012):

Fiji 25 – 37 Scotland

A Fijian side containing no fewer than 4 future Glasgow Warriors (Niko, Naka, Jerry Yanuyanutawa and Nemia Kenatale) and Netani Talei (who was at that time an Edinburgh player) proved to be awkward opposition for a Scotland side coming off the back of a historic win over Australia.

Leone is the only survivor from the Fijian 22 from that match with Tim Visser, Ross Ford and John Barclay all returning on the Scottish side.

Officials:

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referees: Will Houston (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: TBC

M. Gauzere has yellow carded John Barclay in the last 2 Scotland matches he has refereed (Italy (H) in 2017 and Ireland (A) in 2016). The skipper will need to be careful he doesn’t make this an unwanted hat-trick in the heat of Suva. This will be the 5th time the French whistler has taken charge of a Scotland game and, aside from their first encounter in a match against the USA, the dark blues have come out on the wrong side of the penalty / card count on each occasion so far.

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