Scotland vs Fiji : The last time Scotland played Fiji was two summers ago in Suva, and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock – probably the best place to be on the day – then you’ll know how it ended. The local band’s rendition of Flower of Scotland that afternoon was so out of tune that it could have served as a portent of doom for the visitors.
Saturday should be different. Gregor Townsend’s team have won eight of their past nine at Murrayfield. Vulnerable on the road, but consistent at home. They’ve seen off Ireland, Wales, Australia, France and England. As dangerous as Fiji are, there’ll be tremors in Edinburgh if they are not added to that list
The Glasgow full-back was expected to be sidelined for 10-12 weeks and miss the entire autumn Test series.But he starts on Saturday, with Sean Maitland, Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw, who will captain the side, also back after missing the Wales game.
Centre Huw Jones is dropped, Pete Horne starting, while Exeter lock Sam Skinner is handed his debut.The 23-year-old, who played nine games for England’s Under-20s, qualifies for Scotland through his Scottish father.
He starts alongside Grant Gilchrist, with Jonny Gray on the bench, while Matt Fagerson is at number eight with Ryan Wilson moving to blind-side flanker and Jamie Ritchie to open-side.Fraser Brown also comes into the side at hooker, with Stuart McInally – captain against Wales – missing out as head coach Gregor Townsend makes nine changes in all from the side beaten 21-10 in Cardiff.
The big news is the return of Stuart Hogg ahead of schedule, the renewed partnership of Finn Russell and Greig Laidlaw at half-back, and the debut of Sam Skinner in the second row. Class and creativity and experience and leadership – some of the things missing in Cardiff last weekend when Scotland lost 21-10.
The re-emergence of Josh Strauss is another sub-plot to all of this. For more than a year now rugby fans in Scotland have wondered why Strauss had fallen so far out of favour with Townsend. In selection terms, the No 8 was residing in a bunker in a remote suburb of Nowhereville in the province of Wilderness.
Scotland’s loss in Suva was the endgame for him. His work-rate was poor, his involvement in the game was peripheral, this time was up. Until now. Strauss lives again only because of injuries to others. Everybody has seen how good he can be at his best, but his best became too infrequent. However many minutes he gets on the field he’d be as well to make the most of them because he’s still playing to a sceptical audience in Townsend.