Two years ago Scotland were defeated by Tonga 21-15 in Aberdeen. It is a sign of Scotland’s progress during the Autumn Internationals that such a result now seems unimaginable for Vern Cotter’s invigorated side.
The Scots looked genuinely dangerous in attack against Argentina, although conceded too many points cheaply in the second half, and were almost unrecognisable in last week’s 16-24 loss against New Zealand – a moral victory if ever there was one.
Playing in Kilmarnock for the first time tomorrow, they will be looking to build on these performances and not just to beat Tonga but to beat them decisively.
There are four injury-induced changes from last week’s team, with Geoff Cross and Johnnie Beatie coming into the forwards and Sean Lamont and the prolific Tim Visser into the backs.
Though Greig Laidlaw did miss a crucial penalty to put his team into the lead last week, his performance, both as captain and scrum half, was exceptional. The assurance he is playing with has allowed 22-year-old fly half Finn Russell to ease into his international career.
Scotland have looked to do much more with the ball of late, beginning with the way they have moved the ball around the breakdown to get over the gain line – a world away from the static but solid style they have employed previously – and against the powerful Pacific Islanders this will again be key.
Complacency is not an option, but Scottish fans will hope a strong performance tomorrow will see them heading into next year’s Six Nations feeling more optimistic than they have in a very long time.