DAVID DENTON warns Tonga will not have to look far for inspiration in their quest to upset the rankings and overcome his Scotland side in Saturday’s concluding EMC Autumn Test at Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen.
Although they have yet to beat any of the home nations at full international level, the Tongans headed north on a high.
Against USA in a second tier tournament in Wales last weekend they won 22-13 and a week previously they pushed Italy all the way in going down 23-28 at Brescia.
Their team has a powerful front row comprising Sona Taumalolo (Perpignan), Elvis Taione (Western Force) and Halaru Aulika (London Irish) as well as Newastle centre Suka Hufunga,
The Italy encounter also saw the Tongans score three tries and they got to within a single score despite having two players – Vungakoto Lilo (Tarbes) and Tukulua Lokotui (Wellington) – yellow carded.
Once more discipline let the Tongans down against the USA, with stand-off Fangatapu ’Apikotoa (Amatori) spending ten minutes on the sidelines, although this time they pulled through with another three tries.
Of additional concern to Scotland will be the way Tonga showed capabilities last year by getting themselves up to defeat France in a World Cup pool tie in Wellington before these same Tricolours went on to reach the tournament final, losing to the All Blacks by a point.
It was, however, another encounter involving South Sea Island rugby that figured uppermost in the mind of Denton, who gained his eighth cap in the 10-21 reverse against South Africa last weekend.
“Tonga will take a lot of positivity from what Samoa did to Wales,” said Denton in a reference to a shock 26-19 win at the Millennium Stadium last Friday. “They are going to come out all guns blazing. They will be physical (and) aggressive. We just have to stick to our systems and trust what we are doing in training and what the coaches are telling us.”
If the Tongans are likely to have been told to improve discipline then another factor Scotland may have to overcome is a pitch which, at 66 metres, is narrower than Murrayfield.
This could play into the hands of Tonga, although Denton knows that if Scotland perform to their ability they can emulate the sides of 1995 and 2001 who beat Tonga 41-5 and 43-20 respectively.
“The first half (against South Africa) was not good enough. You can’t go into a Test match and take 45 minutes to get into it against the second best team in the world,” he said.
“We had two main goals; not to give away penalties and to tackle them low.
“In the first half we gave away eight or nine penalties and I tackled high as did others. That is unacceptable, but we have learned from that.”
In many respects this is one of the most significant games Scotland have undertaken in years, otherwise the summer tour when Australia, Fiji and Samoa were beaten will be seen as unrepresentative of real progress.
“You can’t be going on about potential for years. You have a grace period which probably should have been our (last) Six Nations then it is about time to start winning games
“We know that as a squad we are under pressure, but we are confident if we get our systems right we can come out on top.
“Against South Africa in the second half we were on their line for 20 minutes and didn’t score and that is a worry.”