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Scotland change four for Tonga Test

Head coach Vern Cotter has made four injury-enforced changes to the starting Scotland team that will play Tonga in this Saturday’s historic clash in Kilmarnock.

Tighthead Geoff Cross and No.8 Johnnie Beattie step into the pack for Euan Murray and Adam Ashe, who miss out through thigh and neck injuries respectively.

In the backs, 90-cap Glasgow Warrior Sean Lamont, who came on in the 13th minute against New Zealand as an injury replacement for club-mate Mark Bennett (hamstring), retains his place in midfield.

The final change sees Edinburgh winger Tim Visser set to make his first appearance since the summer tour in place of injured Warrior Sean Maitland (hamstring).

Three of the four changes to the starting team are promotions from the bench selected in the national team’s previous match against New Zealand last weekend.

As a result, Ryan Grant, Alasdair Strokosch and Duncan Taylor all step in to the vacated substitute positions, with Kieran Low taking the place of David Denton as the lock replacement.

Cotter said: “We came very close to the best side in the world last Saturday, which left us very disappointed but, when you look at the content of our performance and what the players did on the paddock, it’d be hard for any coach to be too unhappy.

“The work rate, desire and determination of the squad on the field was excellent.

“There were a lot of good things in the game and a lot things we’ve looked to improve. That’s the nature of this squad, they’re a young group that wants to move forward.

“They were naturally disappointed not to build on a good performance against Argentina, but were quick to put that behind them in training this week, and look forward to putting the jersey on again to face Tonga at Rugby Park.

“The players take a lot of pride from playing for Scotland and really enjoy pulling on the shirt, and I can see that enthusiasm in training and in the games we play.

“They’re setting standards for themselves, which I think is really important for moving forward. It is very encouraging and we’ll continue to work hard on parts of our game to create pressure, momentum and points.

“To do that against an impressive and powerful Tongan team will present another big challenge for this group.

“The Pacific Islanders pride themselves on their physicality, power and pace, all of which combined to hurt Scotland at Pittodrie two years ago.

“We will have to be on top of our game and continue our trajectory of improvements if we are to secure the win this Saturday.”

Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Sean Lamont, Alex Dunbar, Tim Visser; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw (Capt.); Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross; Richie Gray, Jonny Gray; Rob Harley, Blair Cowan, Johnnie Beattie.

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Gordon Reid, Ryan Grant, Kieran Low, Alasdair Strokosch, Chris Cusiter, Duncan Weir, Duncan Taylor

Tonga: Vungakoto Lilo; David Halaifonua, Siale Piutau, Hemani Paea, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Latiume Fosita, Sonatane Takulua; Tevita Mailau, Aleki Lutui, Paea Fa’anunu; Tukulua Lokotui, Joe Tu’ineau; Sione Kalamafoni, Nili Latu (Capt.), Viliami Ma’afu.

Replacements: Elvis Taione, Sione Lea, Sila Puafisi, Lisiate Fa’aoso, Hale T Pole, Tomasi Palu, Kurt Morath, Sione Piukala.

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