RWC23: Scotland v Tonga: Richie Gray determined to avoid 2012 repeat

Second-row played in 15-21 loss to the ʻIkale Tahi in Aberdeen nine years ago

Richie Gray during Scotland team training at Stade Nicois on Sunday morning. Image: © Craig Watson -
Richie Gray during Scotland team training at Stade Nicois on Sunday morning. Image: © Craig Watson -

RICHIE GRAY turned off the television after 55 minutes of Tonga’s 59-16 defeat to Ireland on Saturday night, but saw enough during the time he was paying attention to be reminded of the threat the Pacific Islanders can pose – not that it was needed given that he is one of only two survivors in the current squad from that infamous defeat in Aberdeen back in 2012 (alongside fellow second-row Grant Gilchrist who was an unused replacement in that horrifying – from a Scottish perspective – 15-21 loss to the ʻIkale Tahi).

Back to the present, and with both teams having lost their opening matches of this World Cup campaign, next Sunday’s clash in Nice is do-or-die regardless of where your loyalties lie, and it would be reckless of Scotland to focus too much on the last time they played Tonga, when they ran out comfortable 60-14 winger in late October 2021.

That game was played outside World Rugby’s international window so both sides were shorn of several frontline players, which was bound to impact Tonga more severely given their much smaller resources – both human and financial. Tonga were so hard up that day that they even had Walter Fifita (the giant but hugely unimpressive winger who was at the start his year and a half spell with Glasgow Warriors before leaving the club under a cloud in April) playing.

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About David Barnes 4030 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. 2012 in the snow in Aberdeen was a horrible game that ended a coaches international career. If we lose this then we are coming home before we get to Ireland and I expect the debrief to be just as painful. This is a game to build confidence in our set piece and rediscover our attacking mojo after a sobering outing against the Boks.

  2. Don’t know why the SRU keeps putting up players to spout inane banalities. A complete turnoff. I don’t recall the 1984 or 1990 teams spouting off. Actions on the field were sufficient.

    • Then again in 1984 and 1990 there weren’t all various mainstream and social media channels that there are now all needing to be filled with (largely) nonsense.

  3. ‘After 55mins it was past my bedtime’…..inline with Scotland performances against top sides.

    No doubt the same against Ireland when it matters.

  4. Alternately it’s good to see the players aren’t taking the game lightly.

    It’s all meaningless words anyway.

  5. The culture within Scottish Rugby when referring to the opposition for at least the last 20 years has at times for me been concerning. The use of language when interviewed hasn’t shown confidence, determination or belief. I am all for respecting the opposition or being wary of them but when you read or listen to interviews self-defeatist terms are too often referred to. However, recently this attitude has begun to turn. Players talking of controlling, powering, being accurate, or inflicting their game is expressed with grit. Something we have lacked on many occasions arguably since the game went professional. I would guess Aaron Walsh has had his influence on this…

  6. ‘Scotland winger Kyle Steyn wary of Tongan backlash’, ‘Richie Gray determined to avoid 2012 repeat’. ‘Turned off the television’. Really stirring stuff. The Reds are ranked 16th in thee world, finished bottom of the Pacific championship, have just lost to Ireland by 43 points and put up the worst line-out performance that I have ever seen in test rugby, Fraser Brown included. If we’re not going in with a full confidence and determination then what on Earth are we doing in this tournament? Next it’ll be ‘Townsend fears Romanian resurgence’. I back the boys to keep the head, retain
    their shape, go through the phases and get an emphatic result – and they must believe the same to avoid ridiculous self-fulfilling prophesies. If they can do that, then everything else will fall into place. Surely that isn’t too much to ask of the greatest Scotland team ever?


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