Fiji v Scotland: Gregor Townsend's side look to maintain momentum in Suva

Gregor Townsend
A win over Fiji would seal an excellent start to Gregor Townsend's time as Scotland head coach

There will be personal milestones for three Scotland players in the team to play Fiji on Saturday in Suva - Ross Ford's record-breaking 110th cap, Nick Grigg's breakthrough first cap and Alex Allan's first start after three appearances from the bench.

More than anything, though, a third win will be uppermost in Gregor Townsend's mind as Scotland's tour comes to an end against the potentially dangerous Fijians, who will be roared on by a crowd as passionate as any - and more passionate than most - in world rugby.

To a man, the Scots have pointed out the futility of winning against Australia last weekend only to lose to Fiji a week later. They've spoken of wanting to avoid ending the tour on a downer.

As Josh Strauss said on Monday, this three-match series would almost feel like a failure if they were to drop their guard and suffer a defeat on Saturday.

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Townsend also sounded a note of caution in the preamble. Nobody has given Fiji more respect and attention this week than Townsend, nobody has analysed the off-loading, game-breaking brilliance of what they do quite like the coach.

The memory of his 1998 defeat to Fiji in Suva is still clear. He recalls the excellence of the home team that day in scoring eight tries against the Scots, he remembers the raucousness of the home crowd and the way the home team fed off their passion. He says it won't be any different this time if Scotland don't get it right.

What Townsend dearly wants to avoid are uncomfortable flashbacks of Fero Lasagavibau, the hat-trick scoring wing from 19 years ago.

Lasagavibau has, of course, left the stage, but the production line of world class Fiji wingers remains busy. On Saturday, they will have Josua Tuisova of Toulon on one wing and Patrick Osborne of the Highlanders on the other. Quality players, both. Tuisova just scored for his club in the French championship final - a loss to Clermont, who also had a try-scoring Fijian wing in their team in Alivereti Raka - and Osborne, who just over a week ago, was part of the Highlanders squad that beat the Lions.

Glasgow Warriors' Nick Grigg
Glasgow Warriors' Nick Grigg is set to make his Scotland debut against Fiji

No other country on the planet produces as many bewilderingly good wingers as Fiji. This season, Waisea Nayacalevu of Stade Francais was the leading try-scorer in the Top 14 in France and his countryman, Watisoni Votu of Pau was just behind in second place. Nemani Nadolo and Timoci Nagusa are both prominent wings with Montpellier who finished third in the regular season in France. Vereniki Goneva, who stands down this week, scored against Australia and Italy in the past fortnight.

They're the pick of the Fijian wings who play for Fiji, but there's a whole different category of Fijian-born wings who currently play for, or have very recent played for, other countries and again we're talking class players. In some cases, undoubted world class.

Waisake Naholo, the All Black; Virimi Vakatawa, the adopted Frenchman and his Les Bleus team-mate Noa Nakaitaci. Henry Speight, Eto Nabuli, Sefa Naivalu and Taqele Naiyaravoro - all Fijians, all Australian internationals. Semesa Rokoduguni, another Fijian who has won two caps for England, the last of them in the summer of 2016.

There are others. In France? Many, many others. To be in Fiji this past week is to understand what the game means to the people here and what the visiting Scots mean to them into the bargain. There is a massive appreciation, a tangible excitement, a hope of a classic.

Waisea Nayacalevu
Fiji winger Waisea Nayacalevu finished as the top scorer in the Top 14 last season

Townsend has love-bombed Fijian rugby all week, but he knows what's coming. If conditions allow - it rained heavily in Suva on Friday - then it's going to be a game played at a ferocious pace.

Fiji can - and almost certainly will - score tries. They got three tries in victory against Italy last weekend, they got two in defeat (and could have had at least two more) against Australia the week before, they got five in their win over Japan and even in the autumn, when England put 58 points on them at Twickenham, they still managed to score three times.

In everything they have been saying, Scotland come across as being aware of Fiji's threat and focused on finishing this tour off with another momentum-building victory. It should happen, but expect Fijian fireworks before that final whistle sounds.

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