June 14, 2012
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Scotland wary of Fijian fliers

Scotland will seek to maintain winning momentum in a one-off Test against a pacy Fijian side on Saturday after opening their Southern Hemisphere tour with a rousing upset victory over Australia.

Blustery, wet conditions played into Scotland's hands in a tryless 9-6 win over the Wallabies last week but the Bravehearts expect a more open game against Fiji, who are desperate to impress on home soil.

Not only will the match be played in the tropical heat of Lautoka, but the Six Nations wooden spooners will have to blunt a Fijian attack renowned for its ability to score from any area of the park.

Scotland half-back Mike Blair said the Bravehearts needed to muster a massive defensive effort, similar to the one that got them home against Australia.

"We're very aware of the strength the Fijians have got," he said.

"We've watched their last two games in Japan (in the Pacific Nations Cup) and they have incredible offloading skills, so our tackles have to be spot on."

The Scots have only lost once in seven previous meetings with Fiji, a 51-26 defeat in Suva in 1998 that the touring side blamed at the time on unfamiliarity with the humid conditions in the Fijian capital.

In a bid to ensure no repeat this time around, the Scots arrived in Fiji last Monday to give themselves almost a week to acclimatise to demanding local conditions.

Coach Andy Robinson has made just two changes to the side that downed Australia, bringing in Max Evans on the right wing and Dutch-born debutante Tim Visser on the left.

He will wait until Saturday to finalise his bench to gauge how players have recovered from a stomach bug that swept through the camp.

The last Six Nations team to play in Fiji was Italy in 2006 and Fiji captain Netani Talei said the hosts were keen to make the most of a rare opportunity against Northern Hemisphere opposition on home soil.

It is also a chance for the Fijians to showcase changes made since a disappointing campaign at last year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, where they were eliminated in the pool stages after a string of lacklustre displays.

"I told the boys 'make use of the time and whatever you do come out hard, you'll never get this opportunity to play a tier one nation at home again'," Talei said.

"Having tier one nations coming in opens the gates for everything -- for contracts for the local boys, sponsorships and more teams looking at us and saying 'oh yes, they've improved.'

"Winning this weekend will be a massive, massive achievement for us."

AFP

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