Given a fortnight to chew over a bruising defeat to South Africa, Scotland’s return to Rugby World Cup action this weekend has the feel of a fresh start.
Thunder storms over the Cote d’Azur have swept out the stifling heat which greeted the team when they arrived in camp, making for altogether more Scottish conditions in which to prepare to take on Tonga.
While locals are joking that the thousands of Scots travelling to Nice for the match have brought the weather with them, there is a serious challenge lying ahead for Gregor Townsend’s men.
It has to be three wins from three to avoid being knocked out in the pool stage for the second time in a row. Scotland’s margin for error evaporated under the Springbok onslaught in Marseille.
The players have spoken of showing their “true face” against the Pacific Islanders on Sunday and Townsend is keen for a victory to act as a springboard.
He said: “We need to get our World Cup started with our first win. This is a crucial game for us, it’s our knock out stage now.
“If we lose a game we are out the tournament and we have to approach every game with that mentality.”
The head coach makes four changes with Tongan physicality in mind. Former New Zealand All Blacks now wear the red of their birth nation, taking advantage of a new World Rugby law allowing players to change international allegiance.
They will pose a test and Scotland must be wary. But if the dark blues play anything close to their potential they will win and they should also claim a bonus point.
Expect to hear a lot about bonus points over the coming weeks. Depending on the results of South Africa and Ireland the table could come down to how many of these are collected.
Four tries and a win equals five points on the board in the pool. It is only four points for a win without notching four tries.
The Scotland camp insist they’ll focus on wins first and not become preoccupied with racking up a big score. But they will be desperate to ensure the picture is as clear as possible ahead of the final showdown with Ireland in Paris that should determine their quarter final fate.
Plenty of water will pass under the bridge between now and then. The Scots need to take care of Tonga first, and hope a deluge of scoring naturally follows on the uncharacteristically damp south coast of France.
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