Greig Tonks and Scotland target hat-trick of summer tour wins
Having taken down 23 Wallabies on Saturday, a challenger of an altogether different kind ventured into the Scotland camp in Fiji on Monday afternoon. This creature was a black and white thing that came slithering out of the water of Lami Bay, upon which the happy visitors' hotel is set.
To the innocents abroad, who went up close to take pictures, it was a mere snake. To the locals, it was a banded sea krait, a potentially lethal character that contains 10 times more venom than a cobra.
As Greig Tonks prepared to do an interview close to where this fella was causing a scene, he looked over his shoulder anxiously. Tonks, as it turns out, isn't a great one for legless, carnivorous, poisonous reptiles. Who knew?
"I'm a bit worried it's worming its way over here," said the Scotland full-back, who made his return to the Test arena on Saturday in the 24-19 win over Australia after a two-year absence. "It's getting enough attention from those other guys. Hopefully it takes somebody else before it takes me."
The Scots are now in the final week of their three-match tour. The Italians were put away in Singapore on the back of five tries, the Wallabies were beaten in Sydney at the weekend with the help of another three. Eight tries and two wins. This is the beginning that Gregor Townsend could scarcely have dreamed about.
The focus has now shifted to adding more numbers to both of those categories. The determination to make it three from three is palpable.
Along with Tonks, Josh Strauss spoke on Monday as well and he summed-up the vibe in the squad these past few weeks. "It's like 31 best mates going on holiday together," he said. "We all care for each other. It's a fun tour but winning makes it even more fun."
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Strauss, and the rest of the squad, got to their hotel late on Sunday, checked in and crashed out. When the number eight switched on his television there was a replay of the Australia-Scotland game on. He lay on his bed and watched it until around 1am, when he surrendered to sleep.
"I watched until 65 minutes and I was struggling to keep my eyes open," he said. He's reviewed the key elements, particularly the hair-raising, beard-stroking moments when Scotland were forced to hold back the Australian tide.
"You just hope that somebody tackles them," he said about those dramatic last minutes. "You're running back trying to get into line and you're saying, 'Please let somebody stop him!' We don't try to make it dramatic, because it's easier when it's not dramatic."
Tonks, whose only previous starts for Scotland had come in the less than white-hot heat of a summer game against Tonga and two 2015 World Cup warm-up matches against Ireland and Italy, said that Saturday still feels a little surreal.
"It's not often when you're playing that you get a bit nervous," he said.
"I had a kick towards the end to clear our line and it stayed infield and they counterattacked and I had a little moment of panic. But we held out and the feeling was unbelievable. I was in shock initially. I couldn't really believe it. I didn't know how to react. I was a bit in awe of the situation.
"The whole of Scotland felt that pain of the World Cup quarter-final and I think we had something to prove. It was time to get one back. This is what it's all about. We've beaten Australia in Australia and those moments are pretty special."
Something special in Japan in 2019?
Strauss threw things forward when talking about where this group of players might find themselves in a few years. He's only been involved since his residency rule qualification kicked-in at the World Cup and, so, he tempers his words of praise somewhat.
"I heard a lot of murmurs about this being the best squad Scotland has had in ages and, in my opinion, it's true," he said.
"It's probably easy for me to say because I'm part of it. If you like somebody you might think they are better than they are, so I might be biased.
"But looking at the youngsters coming through, the young guys playing with me at Glasgow, the Scotland U-20s (who, to add to a storied weekend for the home game, finished fifth in the Junior World Cup) it bodes well. Guys like Matt Fagerson (the young Glasgow back-row) is amazing.
"What's really exciting about this squad is the average age of the players. There are a few older boys kicking about, like myself, but it's a great age for the squad. We just have to stay the course. The next World Cup - you want to be involved in that. Looking at the last one and how well we did, we've just built on from there and it's got better and better.
"You can't see the future but if it all goes well I think something special could happen in 2019. I'm a senior player - he's 30 and will be 32 in Japan - but hopefully I'm not too senior to be at the World Cup."
Two down, one to go
Strauss and Tonks can park last Saturday now. Both say that Scotland cannot let their good work of the past fortnight be compromised by a sub-standard effort against Fiji in Suva on Saturday.
"You want to win every game and it's going to be tough against Fiji because they're so unpredictable," said Strauss. Fiji beat Italy in Suva 22-19 on Saturday and lost 37-14 against the Wallabies.
He continued: "They have some world-class players. We haven't done the analysis on them yet, but they'll be tough to analyse because they're individual athletes doing great, great things. They're big men, hard and physical. You want to end the tour on a good note. It's not true, but (if Scotland failed to win) it would almost feel like it wasn't a successful tour."
Townsend names his team to face Fiji on Thursday. Two jobs done, one more to go.