Nice: Scotland changed two forwards and two backs to the side facing Tonga at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday.
The Scots opened with an 18-3 defeat to defending champion South Africa two weeks ago.
On Friday, prop Rory Sutherland and lock Scott Cummings replaced Pierre Schoeman and Grant Gilchrist, while centre Chris Harris — who played in all of Scotland’s pool games at the 2019 World Cup — and right wing Kyle Steyn pushed Huw Jones and Darcy Graham into the reserves.
“We know this is a really important game for us so we’ve put as strong a team as we can to win it,” coach Gregor Townsend said. “The last 20 minutes are going to be important, so to have players like Darcy Graham, Huw Jones and George Horne coming off the bench will give us something different.”
Tonga will have bad memories of Steyn, who scored four tries in a 60-14 win when the sides last met two years ago. The Scots scored 10 tries that day at Murrayfield.
Gilchrist dropped out of the matchday 23 for the game in Nice.
Both teams are playing their second Pool B game, with Tonga dispatched 59-16 by Ireland in their first game.
Scotland captain Jamie Ritchie said the players were raring to go after a two-week stretch without action.
“We had tough training last weekend, might as well have played a game,” he said. “Luckily we have a job where we get to run into each other for a living. You can take out some of that frustration there.”
They found a novel way to shake off the boredom.
“We have got some of the special branch police with us and they are taking us around their station to show us a bit about what they do,” Ritchie said. “It’s just doing different things that break up the monotony of our schedule.”
Townsend doesn’t feel the break was too long, at least not for him.
“For the players, after a defeat you want to be able to play again straight away. As coaches, maybe (it’s a good thing),” he said. “We’ve had social time with the families, we feel we’re further ahead having had those moments on and off the field.”
Even though Tonga was soundly beaten by the Irish, Townsend thinks the score could have been a little closer.
“They had opportunities against Ireland that they might have taken,” he said. “When you’ve got players like (fullback Charles) Piatau and (centre Malakai) Fekitoa on the field, they can score a try out of anything.”
The Scots face Romania next Saturday and conclude with a massive game against Ireland at Stade de France on October 7.
“We need to get our World Cup started with our first win. It’s our knockout stage now,” Townsend said. “If we lose a game, we’re out, and we need to go out with that mentality.”
Tonga face the Springboks next Sunday and then wraps up Pool B against Romania.