Fiji test a chance for Scotland to continue their comeback
Date: 16th June 2012
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Venue: Churchill Park, Lautoka
Scotland travel to Lautoka on Saturday to play against a Fijian side who are hungry to knock the Scots off their pedestal following a surprise victory over Australia last Tuesday. The two sides will be looking to build on recent performances, with Scotland wanting to silence the critics who suggest that they are too inconsistent and lack the depth and talent to realistically challenge for major international titles.
Scotland’s match with the Wallabies was a poor display of international rugby with neither team able to register a try with the contest ending 6-9 to the Scots, who only managed to clinch victory following an injury time penalty from Greig Laidlaw. To Scotland’s credit they managed to display some guts and determination in some appalling conditions – albeit typically Scottish.
They will face a strong Fijian side who will be looking to rough up the Scots with their typical brand of hard hitting, quick play, mixing both their powerful forward pack with the pace and power of their speedy back line. The Fijians are an accomplished 7s team who use trickery and an open style of play which sees the ball spread out wide at any opportunity, they will test the young Scottish team’s physical and mental fitness, relentlessly unleashing wave after wave of attack.
Andy Robinson has stated that his team will be looking to play a compact, tight, forward-oriented game, not being drawn into playing Fiji’s quick ball, fast-paced style of play. He has reiterated that Scotland need to play their own game if they stand any real chance of beating Fiji, sticking to slowing the ball down and drawing the Fijians into a game they are not comfortable playing. Robinson is also facing some selection issues coming into Saturdays game with wingers Sean Lamont and Joe Ansbro appearing to be ruled out by injuries sustained following their performances against Australia. Lamont was replaced during the match due to a rib problem, while Ansbro suffered a large cut near his right eye following a collision with flanker Alastair Strokosch during the victory celebrations.
Robinson began his Scotland career with a 23-10 victory over Fiji at Murrayfield in 2009 and will look to bring in impressive Dutch-born Edinburgh winger Tim Visser, who has been the top tryscorer for three successive seasons in the RaboDirect Pro12, notching up 37 trys in 57 matches. He will also look to Max Evans who is available following his club commitments with French side Castres.
The Scotland coach is still under pressure, despite his team’s impressive win over Australia. His team was unable to register a victory in this season’s six nations and looked to have no real direction of how he wanted his players to play. Scotland lacked ideas and invention during the Six Nations, unable to present any real threat to their opposition while looking uncomfortable with the way they were being asked to play. Robinson has been largely unsuccessful in replicating the success he achieved at England, he has attempted to bring his mould of stodgy, forward rugby, with the emphasis on forwards first, back last. This brand of rugby has not worked for the Scots, as they have lacked the game breaker forwards who can either alter the direction of the play or provide individual brilliance which is what is needed to play such a one dimensional style.
Changes will need to come to the Scotland team, whether it be with the head coach or with the playing staff, either way Scotland’s game with Fiji will allow not only the fans to see how far the team have come since their recent poor showings but also the SRU head honchos who have the power to wield the axe on the coaching team. Scotland languish near the bottom of the ‘top tier’ rugby playing nations, with Fiji four spots behind them. The Fijians will be looking to dictate the pace and flow of the contest, playing their traditional brand of quick fire rugby from the opening kick-off. Just like Scotland, Fiji are aiming to build on recent performances after the entire coaching team were dismissed following a poor Rugby World Cup. New head coach Inoke Male has suggested that his team will be taking the game to the Scots, not allowing them to rest or regroup.
Saturday will be an excellent test for Scotland, with everyone eagerly watching to see if last week’s result was purely down to Australia having a bad day at the office, or a new Scotland who have finally found out what kind of team they really are.
by Alexander McLeman