Autumn Nations Series preview: Scotland to edge out Argentina at Murrayfield

Scotland v Argentina preview pic Autumn Nations Series 2022.jpg Credit: Alamy
Scotland v Argentina preview pic Autumn Nations Series 2022.jpg Credit: Alamy

Scotland will be determined to gain revenge when they go head-to-head against Argentina in their Autumn Nations Series international at Murrayfield on Saturday.

This will be the fourth encounter between these teams in 2022 with the Pumas going into this fixture holding an edge after clinching a narrow 2-1 series victory when they met during the mid-year internationals in July.

Momentum between these sides ebbed and flowed throughout that series with Argentina drawing first blood with a 26-18 victory in the opening Test in Jujuy before Scotland turned the tables by claiming a 29-6 win in Salta.

That set up a grand finale in Santiago del Estero where the match went down to the wire with the home side clinching a stunning 34-31 triumph courtesy of a converted try from Emiliano Boffelli in the game’s dying moments.

Scotland come into the encounter after delivering an excellent display in their previous fixture against New Zealand at Murrayfield six days ago as only a late surge from the All Blacks saw them claim a 31-23 win over Gregor Townsend’s troops.

That means the Scots have a lot riding on their clash with Argentina as they kicked off their Autumn Nations Series campaign with a narrow 16-15 defeat against Australia before they clinched a hard-fought 28-12 win over Fiji in their next match.

Meanwhile, Argentina came into the Autumn Nations Series in a confident mood after some impressive results in the Rugby Championship, which included a record victory over the Wallabies and a first ever triumph against the All Blacks on New Zealand soil.

The Pumas started their end-of-year campaign with an impressive 30-29 triumph against England at Twickenham but could not build on that result and suffered a 20-13 defeat to Wales last weekend.

They will be determined to finish their tour on a high by returning to winning ways this weekend.

Where the game will be won

If Scotland can replicate what they did for 60 minutes against New Zealand last weekend, they will almost certainly emerge as victors in this encounter. However, the key to victory is for them to do what they did against the All Blacks for a full 80 minutes and not just for three quarters of the encounter.

With Argentina employing a similar style to New Zealand, Scotland will fancy their chances of taking the spoils at Murrayfield. The Pumas are expected to launch several attacks inside Scottish territory, so the home side’s defence and counter-attacking ability will be crucial. That is easier said than done, although they have several fine attacking players in the likes of Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe and Darcy Graham, who will be at the forefront of those counter-attacks.

Gaining good front foot ball from their forwards will be important for both sides in order to launch attacks and the kicking game – out of hand and at goal – will be crucial in the grander scheme of things. With these sides being so evenly matched, goal-kicking could ultimately prove the difference to the sides and both teams have accurate goal-kickers in Scotland fly-half Russell and Argentina wing Boffelli. How the aforementioned duo perform off the tee should decide who wins and who loses this fixture.

Last time they met

What they said

Scotland centre Sione Tuipulotu said that, although they are in a confident mood, they expect a tough challenge from the Pumas.

“We go into this game confident but I don’t think we go into it thinking we’re massive favourites or anything like that,” he said. “Argentina have had some good results and (Michael) Cheika’s had some success in his first year with the team.

“You can see the style of rugby they’re trying to play but we back ourselves and feel we can negate their strengths and play the kind of rugby we want to play.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction but, ultimately, we need to win this weekend, plain and simple. We’ve got to win at all costs.”

Argentina head coach Michael Cheika doesn’t believe that his players will be lacking in energy as they prepare for their final match of their international season.

“The boys are playing in the middle of their season, most of them,” Cheika said. “We’ve obviously got a different calendar because our players play northern hemisphere club rugby and then in the southern hemisphere international programme, but I feel like we’re managing that well in the way we’ve prepared our training. The guys are full of energy.

“I don’t see it like a final push. This is a big part of our season and then they’ll move on to different parts of their own season afterwards. If anything, I feel there’s been an increase in intensity this week.”

Players to watch

In Finn Russell, Scotland have an outstanding fly-half whose game management and playmaking skills are amongst the best in the business and if the home side want to return to the victory trail he will have a crucial role to play in helping them to achieve that. The Racing 92 star was a staggering omission when Townsend named his initial Autumn Nations Series squad but highlighted his value to his country with a superb effort against the All Blacks last week. Scotland supporters will be hoping for a similar performance this week.

Another player who will be crucial to the Scottish cause is their captain Jamie Ritchie, who has impressed since taking the leadership role at the start of the Autumn Nations Series. The 26-year-old has been one of Scotland’s most consistent performers of late with his destructive ball carrying and defensive abilities as well as his breakdown skills amongst his strengths.

For Argentina, the performance of star back-row Pablo Matera will be crucial as he heads into this encounter in excellent form. Originally a flanker, Matera has been his country’s first choice number eight in 2022 and played well consistently for the entire season. The 29-year-old has a high work-rate and poses a genuine threat on attack and at the breakdown, while he is also excellent on defence.

Also keep an eye on scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou, who, after spending several years as a back-up to more experienced players like Tomas Cubelli and Martín Landajo, has now established himself as Argentina’s first choice number nine. The Dragons stalwart possesses a fine skill set and has the ability to unleash his dangerous outside backs with his slick service, while his box-kicking is also outstanding and he is sure to test Scotland’s defence with some teasing kicks.

Main head-to-head

The battle out wide between Edinburgh flyers Darcy Graham of Scotland and Argentina’s Emiliano Boffelli pits two players against each other with contrasting styles but both are important for their respective teams. Team-mates at club level with Edinburgh, both will stop at nothing to get the better of the other as they aim to finish the 2022 international season on a high.

Graham is an excitement machine who is renowned for his quick feet and brilliant attacking ability. Small in stature, the 25-year-old punches above his weight and is sure to test the Pumas defence with some mazy runs. Meanwhile, Boffelli’s aerial ability and goal-kicking are undoubted strengths but he is also an adept attacker who knows his way to the try-line. With the 27-year-old plying his trade at Edinburgh, he will be determined to get the better of Scotland and win his personal duel with Graham.

Prediction

This is a difficult one to predict as there is little to choose between two evenly matched sides. Much will depend on the forward battle as well as the goal-kicking and we expect this match to go down to the wire. It will be close but Scotland will seal a narrow win by three points.

Previous results

2022: Argentina won 34-31 in Santiago del Estero
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

The teams

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Jamie Ritchie (c), 6 Matt Fagerson, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Murphy Walker, 19 Glen Young, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Ben White, 22 Blair Kinghorn, 23 Cameron Redpath

Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martín González, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Julian Montoya (c), 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements:16 Ignacio Ruiz, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Lautaro Velez-Bazan, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Matías Moroni

Date: Saturday, November 19
Venue: Murrayfield
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Ian Tempest (England)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)

READ MORE: Autumn Nations Series preview: Ireland to end year on a high against Wallabies

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