Express & Star

No margin for error in Tonga clash – Scotland talking points

Kyle Steyn and Lions duo Rory Sutherland and Chris Harris are back in the XV as their side look to bounce back from defeat to South Africa.

Gregor Townsend

A fortnight on from their defeat by South Africa, Scotland play their second match of the World Cup against Tonga in Nice on Sunday.

Here, the PA news agency assesses some of the key talking points ahead of a crucial Pool B fixture for Gregor Townsend’s side.

No margin for error

Scotland’s defeat by South Africa has left them with no margin for error (Mike Egerton/PA)

After losing the opener to the Springboks, Scotland will almost certainly have to win all three of their remaining pool fixtures against Tonga, Romania and Ireland if they are to progress to the quarter-finals. Depending on results elsewhere in the section, bonus-point victories are also likely to be required. Scotland are red-hot favourites to get the result they need on Sunday, and have generally been very good at dealing with lower-ranked opponents, but there is an extra degree of pressure attached.

Return of the two Lions

Chris Harris
Chris Harris has been handed a start against Tonga (David Davies/PA)

Of the eight Scotland players who toured South Africa with the British and Irish Lions in 2021, only Zander Fagerson, Finn Russell and Duhan van der Merwe can still be considered regular starters for the national team. Stuart Hogg retired earlier this summer while Rory Sutherland, Chris Harris, Ali Price and Hamish Watson – although still in the squad – have become less prominent. Prop Sutherland and centre Harris, however, have been given a rare chance to start this weekend and remind everyone of their qualities.

Scots’ attack must spark

Kyle Steyn
Kyle Steyn is back in Scotland’s starting XV (Adam Davy/PA)

The defeat by South Africa was the first time Scotland had failed to score a try for almost three years and their lowest-scoring outing since the first game of the 2019 World Cup. Townsend’s team have become renowned for their swashbuckling attacking play so it was unusual to see them look so blunt. With softer opposition this weekend, they should get themselves back over the try-line but, with tougher tests ahead and the need to atone for falling flat against the Springboks, there is a sense that the Scots – with Kyle Steyn replacing Darcy Graham on the wing – could do with delivering an exuberant attacking performance.

Have the Boks dented Scots’ morale?

Blair Kinghorn
The Scotland squad have generally been in good spirits in France despite their early setback (Adam Davy/PA)

Scotland came into the tournament with genuine belief they could win their opener against South Africa so there was an air of deflation among the squad in the immediate aftermath. The fact they had no game last weekend means there is unlikely to be any physical or mental hangover. The players had three days of downtime with their families to get the Boks defeat out of their systems, and have been in good spirits when facing the media, seeming desperate to get back on the horse and show their opening-day flop was a mere blip.

Scots relishing base city outing

Stade de Nice
Scotland will play at Stade de Nice this weekend (David Davies/PA)

Scotland’s World Cup base is just west of Nice and they have been training at Stade Nicois’ ground, which is a short hop from Stade de Nice. The squad’s capping ceremony the day after they arrived at the tournament was held just off the Promenade des Anglais, where they were given a warm welcome by the Mayor of Nice, and there are posters and billboards dotted around the city referring to their presence. The team have become acclimatised to life on the Cote d’Azur and with a huge number of Scottish supporters having descended on Nice, the players are relishing their only opportunity at the tournament to play in their base city.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.