The Scottish surprised many with their Six Nations performances earlier in the year, with victories over England and France the standout performances, while narrow defeats to Wales and Ireland suggest this Scotland squad are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the next few years.
However, with this test falling out of World Rugby’s test window, clubs are under no obligation to release players for their country, and that’s why Gregor Townsend has been forced to pick an entirely home-based side with 10 Edinburgh players and 13 from Glasgow.
Eight players will be making their Senior-International debuts on Saturday for the hosts, with Rufus McLean becoming the first player born in the year 2000 or later to play for Scotland.
Tonga have won just two of their last 13 international tests going back into November 2018, with those two victories coming over Canada and USA, so it’s hard to see them getting another here.
Their most recent two outings came as defeats to Samoa and New Zealand by respective heavy 42-13 and 102-0 scorelines, so that doesn’t necessarily bode well for them here.
Tonga +33 Handicap
The handicap line looks a little long for us on this occasions though, especially when considering Scotland are fielding their most inexperienced squad in the Townsend era, while Tonga have shown they can make games tough.
Indeed, the line currently sits around 33 points, with Tonga covering that margin in seven of their last nine outings, with the only two exceptions coming against the All Blacks.
That run includes clashes with Samoa, France, England, Argentina, and Fiji, so they are certainly more than capable of covering it against a weakened Scottish side here.
That said, this travelling Tonga squad has been hit with issues themselves, not least in the form of COVID-19 concerns, and they’ll now be fielding a largely inexperienced side too, while coach Toutai Kefu is also unable to attend.
While in theory the long listof absentees for both sides cancel each other out, and Scotland will remain the far superior side, in practice it tends to level the playing field even more, and with a degree of uncertainty surround these young squads, the handicap line looks far too long, and we’ll back the visitors to cover it.
TONGA +33 HANDICAP