Argentina v Scotland preview: Gregor Townsend’s men to finish the job and claim series triumph

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

The day of deciders continues in Santiago Del Estero on Saturday when Argentina and Scotland face off once again to conclude this end-to-end series.

Contrasting performances from both sides in the opening two Tests means we head into the final weekend with the teams tied at one win apiece.

Scotland, however, are the ones with their tails up and in the box seat after their recent exploits in Salta where they dominated a poor Pumas side.

Momentum and building on that victory will be crucial for Gregor Townsend’s charges and one can’t help but feel the team news also favours the Scots.

Indeed, Townsend has largely stuck with the same line-up of one week ago, with only a handful of tinkering seeing the coach name a strong selection. Contrastingly, Argentina‘s starting team features 11 changes as injuries and most probably also form played a role in Michael Cheika’s final calls.

The Pumas, no doubt reeling following that dismal performance in the second Test, have it all to do if they are reclaim some confidence in their game. Unfortunately for them, however, Scotland appear to have turned a corner as they found weaknesses in their hosts they will look to exploit once again.

What happened in the second Test

It was a much-improved showing from the Scots as they discovered plenty of joy at close quarters, whilst also attacking the 10-12 defence, which bore significant fruit. After a cagey first half that for a long time looked destined to be try-less, a Hamish Watson short-range score on 37 minutes meant Townsend’s outfit went into the break 8-6 to the good. Further tries from Mark Bennett, Matt Fagerson and Sam Johnson in the second period, all of which profiting from some rather weak Pumas fringe defence, wrapped up a comprehensive success as Scotland bounced back in style after their first Test defeat.

What they said

Scotland head coach Townsend suggested that success on this tour was not judged solely on Saturday’s result, as he has witnessed plenty of positives.

“There’s a lot of success on how we have seen players develop, players who got that opportunity against Chile, players who have had opportunities in the last two weeks and who are going to have opportunities this weekend, and from how well they have learned and trained during this period,” he said.

“The success off the field, this group coming together, leaders emerging. Hamish has gone from someone who hadn’t been in a leadership group before to vice-captain and now captain.

“But ultimately we are here to win games and finding a way to win is what we are tasked with doing this week and during the 80 minutes.”

On Zander Fagerson’s 50-cap milestone, Townsend was full of praise for the tighthead prop as he prepares for a special game in the Scotland jersey.

“He has been consistent for us over the past number of years. He brings so much more than just scrummaging, but last Saturday was one of his best scrummaging performances of the season,” he said.

“His work in contact is outstanding, world class, and his ball carrying too is a real handful for defences. I am sure he will do all he can to put in an even better performance this weekend.

“There is much more to come from Zander too given his age and experience.”

Players to watch

As mentioned, there’s been changes aplenty to the Argentina side this week and the return for his first action of this July series of second-row Tomas Lavanini certainly caught our eye. An outstanding lock who unfortunately has had a career blighted by disciplinary issues, Lavanini will be eager to demonstrate he can be trusted by Cheika with a Rugby World Cup looming. His combination with Guido Petti will be a formidable one, if he controls his game.

We’re also looking forward to seeing Pumas stalwart Agustin Creevy feature from the off this weekend, albeit in unfortunate circumstances as Julian Montoya is ruled out. Creevy is one of the game’s great characters whose solidity and drive make him a real favourite with fans around the world.

While prop Fagerson hits 50 caps, Saturday will be full-back Ollie Smith‘s first and there are high hopes in the Scotland camp that he will flourish. Townsend expects the 21-year-old to see plenty of ball this weekend and if he can shine, he might be able to unleash his wings, who have had little joy throughout this series. Consequently Duhan van der Merwe will be desperate to sign off this season in style, with the same going for Rufus McLean.

There will also be eyes on Hamish Watson as he captains Scotland for the first time in his career, following up last weekend’s try-scoring 50th appearance with another significant moment. The tireless flanker will be keen to prove his worth as skipper and we obviously expect him to lead by doing.

Main head-to-head

Watson’s back-row team-mate Rory Darge will go up against Pablo Matera while we’re also intrigued to see how the Facundo Isa versus Matt Fagerson battle plays out at Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades. All four are outstanding carriers and won’t take a backward step and with the Argentinean forwards desperately needing to salvage some pride following last week’s drubbing, there is sure to be added spice to the battle up front.

Elsewhere, Matias Morini and Sione Tuipulotu‘s tussle in the midfield is also one to watch, as both look to make a statement to their respective coaches following limited game time in this series. Moroni is a gifted and versatile player but is sure to have his hands full defensively with Tuipulotu.

Prediction

There were most definitely plenty of work-ons for the Pumas at training this week and their immediate response will be interesting in the early sparring. Scotland meanwhile know they must build on the momentum they gained seven days ago and should have enough to get over the line. Scotland by seven.

Previous results

2022: Scotland won 29-6 in Salta
2022: Argentina won 26-18 in Jujuy
2018: Scotland won 14-9 in Edinburgh
2018: Scotland won 44-15 in Resistencia
2016: Scotland won 19-16 in Edinburgh
2014: Scotland won 41-31 in Edinburgh
2014: Scotland won 21-19 in Cordoba
2011: Argentina won 13-12 in Wellington
2010: Scotland won 13-9 in Mar del Plata
2010: Scotland won 24-16 in Tucuman

The teams

Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Matias Moroni, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Lautaro Bazan Velez, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Santiago Grondona, 6 Pablo Matera (c), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Joel Sclavi, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Ignacio Ruiz, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Tomas Albornoz, 23 Lucio Cinti

Scotland: 15 Ollie Smith, 14 Rufus McLean, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson (c), 6 Rory Darge, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Ewan Ashman, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Dave Cherry, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Glen Young, 20 Andy Christie, 21 George Horne, 22 Ross Thompson, 23 Sam Johnson

Date: Saturday, July 16
Venue: Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades, Santiago Del Estero
Kick-off: 16:10 local (20:10 BST, 19:10 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Tual Trainini (France)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

The article Argentina v Scotland preview: Gregor Townsend’s men to finish the job and claim series triumph appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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