Henry Pyrgos set to start

  • Last Updated: November 21 2012, 17:01 GMT

Head coach Andy Robinson will demand the best performance of the autumn from his Scotland players in Saturday's EMC Test with Tonga in Aberdeen.

Henry Pyrgos: Will start for Scotland on Saturday

Scotland have shown glimpses of their potential against New Zealand and South Africa, but ultimately fell short against the sides ranked first and second in the world.

It means whatever the result at Pittodrie, Scotland will be in the third tier of seeds for next month's 2015 World Cup draw and will face a tough challenge in the tournament.

Following the 21-10 loss to the Springboks, Robinson has made five changes, with hooker Scott Lawson, lock Alastair Kellock, flanker Alasdair Strokosch, scrum-half Henry Pyrgos and centre Max Evans called up to start.

"We've gone through the game together and there were a number of aspects, a bit like the New Zealand game, where you can look at the real positives about what we've done," said Robinson.

"(But) the game of rugby is about being able to perform for 80 minutes and that's a key area for us this week. You put together 35, 40 minutes of what we did against New Zealand with 35, 40 minutes of what we did against South Africa and there's an 80-minute performance for us."

Robinson, though, is not underestimating a Tonga side which pulled arguably the shock of the tournament in beating eventual runners-up France in the group phase.

Robinson added: "They're looking forward to an opportunity here to knock us over. We understand that.

"For them to perform the way they did against France was superb; look at what France did post that, to get to the final and put New Zealand under pressure. It just shows you the levels that Tonga can get to.

"That's why we've got to be able to perform for 80 minutes; our focus has been about that. There are going to be times when we make mistakes.

"When we do make our errors, we've got to be able to absorb the pressure that's there. We've allowed the opposition to score too easily."

Former captains Ross Ford and Mike Blair, Jim Hamilton, John Barclay and Nick De Luca were not selected after starting against the Springboks, the first three altogether.

Robinson emphasised their omissions were due to a wish to give others an opportunity, rather than an indictment on their performances.

Barclay has been replaced by Strokosch in the back-row, the Perpignan player fit again following a calf strain, while Richie Gray has shaken off a head knock sustained in the first half against the Springboks. The pair trained today.

Blair threw an intercepted pass which allowed Adriaan Strauss to score at Murrayfield and his replacement is Pyrgos, who made an impact, scoring a try moments after coming on and playing at a high tempo.

The Glasgow Warriors number nine has an opportunity, with Blair, Chris Cusiter and Rory Lawson all the wrong side of 30.

Pyrgos, 23, said: "It was nice to get on early and get a chance to influence the game, (but) it was frustrating we didn't manage to get over the line again.

"I'm just trying to do the best I can, take it in my stride, play well and make it hard for the coaches.

"Any side you play in you're trying to create some quick ball; that's what the team needs."

The reserve scrum-half is Rory Lawson, whose most recent Scotland appearance came as captain in the World Cup loss to Argentina in Wellington. He was unceremoniously dumped a week later for the England fixture.

Alongside Lawson on the bench by Inverness-born Bath fly-half Tom Heathcote.

Heathcote, an England under-20 international last season, was drafted into the squad on Monday following the release of Ruaridh Jackson and is the understudy to Greig Laidlaw at number 10.

Jackson was declared 'King of Aberdeen' two years' ago when Scotland beat Samoa at Pittodrie and Heathcote has a similar opportunity to make an impact this weekend.

Scotland: S Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); S Lamont (Glasgow Warriors), M Evans (Castres), M Scott (Edinburgh), T Visser (Edinburgh), G Laidlaw (Edinburgh), H Pyrgos (Glasgow Warriors); R Grant (Glasgow Warriors), S Lawson (London Irish), E Murray (Worcester Warriors), R Gray (Sale Sharks), A Kellock (Glasgow Warriors), A Strokosch, K Brown (Saracens, captain), D Denton (Edinburgh).

Substitutes: D Hall (Glasgow Warriors), K Traynor (Bristol), G Cross (Edinburgh), G Gilchrist (Edinburgh), J Barclay (Glasgow Warriors), R Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), T Heathcote (Bath), N De Luca (Edinburgh).


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