Scotland captain hopes Aberdeen luck holds against Tonga
ABERDEEN, United Kingdom (AFP) –
Scotland captain Kelly Brown is aiming to continue his love affair with Aberdeen by leading his frustrated side to success against Tonga on Saturday.
The two sides clash at Pittodrie Stadium with the Scots desperate to salvage some autumn Test pride following their defeats by the world champion All Blacks and South Africa at Murrayfield.
Though rugby realist Brown insisted success at the expense of the south seas troops is no stonewall certainty, he made it clear he is delighted at the prospect of returning to one of his favourite venues.
“It is always good to come up to Aberdeen — the place means an awful lot to me because it was where I made my first Scotland appearance back in 2005,” he said.
“It was a brilliant occasion because it was the first time we had ever beaten the Barbarians. We have never lost at Pittodrie and we have no intentions of doing so now.”
Brown insisted he felt no personal pressure to deliver the right result following the losses to the top two teams in the world.
Defeat by the Springboks saw Scotland drop to 10th place in International Rugby Board rankings and they now won’t be able to achieve a top eight position that will allow them to be in the leading two bands of seeds by the time of next month’s pool draw for the 2015 World Cup in England.
That position has freed up coach Andy Robinson, a former England flanker and head coach, to make more changes than he might otherwise have done, with Glasgow scrum-half Henry Pyrgos set to make his first Test start.
And Brown believes the ditching of experienced players such as Mike Blair and Ross Ford will not count against Scotland.
“The guys coming into the squad — particularly Ally Kellock and Rory Lawson — have been around a long time. There is a core of experience throughout not only the match-day group, but the greater current pool of 32.
“Over the past two weekends, I think we’ve shown in patches what we can do — but for us it’s about really nailing an 80 minute performance,” said Brown.
Tonga, 12th in the world to Scotland’s 10th, are sure to provide a robust challenge and Brown said: “There will be a lot of physicality as these island sides always bring a lot of passion.
“They’ve also got players right through the side that have that little bit of magic, so we’ve got to make sure that we really stick to our defensive structure and impose ourselves on them.”
Glasgow’s shortest-serving player Viliami Ma’afu will line up for Tonga.
The giant breakaway forward clinched a two-year deal with the Warriors in pre-season, only to depart suddenly a few weeks later.
Ma’afu cited family reasons for the abrupt about-turn and Glasgow supremo Gregor Townsend lured South African powerhouse Josh Strauss as his replacement.
Meanwhile Northland flanker Hale T-Pole replaces Leicester Tigers star Steve Mafi in Tonga’s back row.
It is the only change to coach Mana Otai’s side after their 22-13 win over the United States in Wales last Saturday.