Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has picked a starting XV to contain Tonga’s pace, power and offloading ability in the wide channels for Sunday evening's crucial World Cup Pool B  clash, with the aim of frustrating and fatiguing the Pacific Islanders to create an environment where the three game-breaking backs he has selected on the bench can capitalise during the second half.
There are four changes in total to the side which lost 18-3 to South Africa in Scotland’s World Cup opener just under a fortnight ago. In the backline, Kyle Steyn and Chris Harris come in on the wing and at outside-centre respectively for the benched Darcy Graham and Huw Jones. In the pack, Rory Sutherland replaces the also benched Pierre Schoeman at loose-head prop and Scott Cummings starts in the second-row ahead of Grant Gilchrist, who drops out of the squad altogether this week.
Scrum-half George Horne and hooker Ewan Ashman – who were both unavailable for the South Africa game due to concussion – are added to the bench in place of the dropped Ali Price and the now departed (with a concussion which wasn't going to clear in time) Dave Cherry.
Of the new faces in the team, Harris and Sutherland were both Test players for the British and Irish Lions in South Africa just over two years ago, and the fact that Hamish Watson – who was also capped on that tour – hasn’t yet made the match-day 23 at this World Cup help demonstrates the strength in depth Townsend now has at his disposal ... in at least some positions.
“It’s pleasing that we have that depth because with the likes of Rory and Chris, we know their ability and their experience at the top level,” the coach concurred. “Physically, they are in great shape and they deserve this opportunity. It allows us to change the team a little bit, whilst also having a really strong bench. 
“It’s also a six-day turnaround next week for the Romania game, so we knew there would be some changes. Rory and Chris haven’t started much for us this year, but they are two excellent players who will add something to our group.
“We had three hard days of training and you could see the edge coming out in those players physically. They are competitive and they want to start games.”
Harris has found his game time limited since the turn of the year by the re-emergence of Huw Jones as one of the team’s most effective strike-runners, who has forged a close playing bond with inside-centre Sione Tuipulotu at both club level with Glasgow Warriors and in the international team.
“Chris has done really well in training and I thought he played really well in our final warm-up game against Georgia when he came on,” said Townsend. “There's competition in every position and Sione and Huw have been two of our best players in this calendar year. 
“Chris will bring his own game, which is based on work-rate, and his defence is always at a high level. We will have times where it will be tough for us defensively – especially in the wide channels – so having Chris in there can bring out his strengths.”
On the selection of Steyn ahead of Graham, Townsend said: “There's competition for places there. It's not a case of resting players. Kyle played really well when Darcy was injured in the warm-up games and now he's got an opportunity to start. 
“It will be a different role for Darcy, but he has been outstanding in training this week and he's determined to get on ball and make things happen if he gets the opportunity off the bench, which I'm sure he will.

“We feel the last 20 minutes are going to be important so to have players like Darcy, Huw and George Horne coming off the bench to give something different for the Tongan defence could be as important as the guys who get to start.”
While the intent to get back into a try-scoring groove after failing to cross the line against the Springboks is clear, Townsend insists that he and his fellow coaches have not yet put any serious thought into the very real possibility that qualification to the knock-out phases from this pool could turn into a points race if Ireland beat South Africa tonight and Scotland manage to win their three remaining games against Tonga, followed by Romania next Saturday and Ireland the Saturday after that.
“We’ll see what happens on Saturday night with Ireland and South Africa,” he said. “That’ll give us a clearer picture of what these next two games mean for us. 
“But we know it’s going to be a very tough challenge against Tonga, who will be better than they were against Ireland [when they lost 59-16 last weekend]. At times, they were very good in that match and very physical. That’s what’s in front of us right now, the physical challenge of beating Tonga.”
Asked if he has a preferred outcome for tonight’s big between South Africa and Ireland, he retorted: “I do but I’m not going to say it. We’ll be watching Ireland and obviously to see the result and know what it means for us in terms of the next three games. We’re now starting to analyse Ireland and as coaches this will be a very good game to see where their strengths are and maybe any opportunities.”
Scotland suffered a horror loss to Tonga in Aberdeen back in 2012, costing Andy Robinson his job as head coach of the side – but the two meetings since then have been one-sided affairs in Scotland’s favour (43-16 at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock in November 2016 and 60-14 at Murrayfield in October 2021).
Since then, Tonga gave been boosted by the recruitment of a handful of players who have previously played for the All Blacks but are now eligible to play for their ancestral homeland through the same three-year stand-down rule which Scotland exploited to get Jack Dempsey into this World Cup campaign.
“They bring their own individual quality but also the experience of playing in top-level Test matches and at World Cups – and that will spread throughout the team,” surmised Townsend. “They had opportunities against Ireland that they might have taken. When you’ve got players like [Charles] Piatau and [Malakai] Fekitoa on the field, they can score a try out of anything.”