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Fiji Covid-19 crisis forces cancellation of Scotland Autumn Nations Cup clash

Scotland’s Autumn Nations Cup fixture with Fiji at Murrayfield on 28 November has been cancelled after the Pacific Islanders’ squad was decimated by coronavirus.

Fiji have already seen their opening two matches against France and Italy called off after the latest round of Covid-19 tests produced 29 positive results. France were awarded a 28-0 win after their Group B opener was cancelled last Saturday and Gregor Townsend’s Scots – who face Les Bleus on Sunday – will expect to be given the same.

A Scottish Rugby spokesperson said: “While this is very disappointing news, we support the decision to cancel the game and wish a speedy recovery to those affected in the Fijian squad. Our focus remains fully on Sunday’s match against France.”

Fiji are now guaranteed to finish bottom of Group B without playing a game but tournament organisers are still hoping Vern Cotter’s team can take part in the competition in the final round of games scheduled for 5 December.

In a statement, the organisers of the Autumn Nations Cup said: “The extent of infection in the Fiji camp, combined with a minimum 10-day isolation period, plus the obvious need for suitable preparation for any international Test match meant that, whilst difficult, the decision was unavoidable. The tournament organisers remain in constant contact with the Fijian squad regarding their wellbeing and recovery which continues to be the No 1 priority.”

Meanwhile, Gregor Townsend has made five changes to his Scotland side as they prepare to take on France. Les Bleus had been due to send a second-string lineup to Edinburgh but changed their mind after last week’s opener with Fiji was called off.

Townsend will hope to put the brakes on a team he believes is in better form than even the All Blacks at present and has named a new front row with Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown and Simon Berghan packing down.

Matt Fagerson is next to be given the chance to stake a claim for Scotland’s problematic No 8 jersey after Blade Thomson did little to show he is the long-term pick at the back of the scrum, while the only change in the backs see wing Blair Kinghorn replace Edinburgh club-mate Darcy Graham. Saracens duo Sean Maitland and Duncan Taylor – who last featured for Scotland against Russia in the 2019 World Cup – also join the bench.

Townsend said: “France are full of confidence and have played really well this year. We know we’re playing one of the best teams in the world right now, so to rise to this challenge we’re going to have to play close to our best throughout the contest on Sunday.”

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