One of Saturday’s scrum-halves attended St Andrews Scottish School and proudly sported a saltire on his chest. Oh, and it wasn’t Greig Laidlaw.
His opposite number is the Argentine veteran, Martin Landajo, who went to the excellent, bilingual St Andrews Scots school in Buenos Aires. When asked if there were any other famous Pumas who attended the school he replies:
“Yes, My father!”
Laidlaw is not the only nine with a decent pedigree.
The Pumas are halfway through a four-match tour. They thumped Japan two weeks ago before coming a close second to Wales in Cardiff last Saturday but only after travelling halfway around the world. They can perhaps be forgiven one defeat, they will not be forgiven another.
“We have had a year of lots of travel with the Jaguares [Super Rugby franchise],” says Landajo.
“This is our first year of Super Rugby and we are a bit tired. Jet lag is very difficult, but this is the first week when we’ve been able to sleep for eight hours.
“We have to make this the best week because we need to win on Saturday.”
This Argentina squad is unique in one respect, every one of them, with the exception of the Brumbies’ Tomas Cubelli, turns out for the Super Rugby’s Jaguares.The international side is so close to the Jaguares that they are impossible to separate.
While that helps foster a close-knit playing squad who must know each other inside out after an entire season of Super Rugby, might it have a downside in the lack of star dust from the wealthy English and French leagues? “We had lots of our players playing for different clubs and have brought them back, so this is our first year altogether and I prefer to run like this.
“We started in January with the same coaches and the same way we want to play rugby – we change some things every week, but we are working the same way as we started in January. I think it is the only team in the world that has the same team that plays for the club and then afterwards for the country – there is only one guy from outside. For me, it is my national team but it is also my club and my friends are here so I feel very comfortable.”
If you have been sleeping for the last decade then this Argentina side is going to spring something of a surprise on you come Saturday.
While Los Pumas made their name by kicking the ball in the air and squeezing the opposition at the set-scrum, this lot have done an about turn.
They attack now with the ball in hand and play some of the most ambitious running rugby on the planet. Sadly last Saturday it seems that the set-scrum suffered as a result, with Wales milking five or six penalties at the coal face.
The change came not through any self reflection but thanks to one particular World Cup winner who offered his services, albeit at a price.
“It is much more fun,” says Landejo of the Pumas’ new style.
“I think Argentina changed its style three or four years ago when Graham Henry came to help us and I was fortunate that I was there, so I learned that we had to change our way because we had a good defence but we did not make tries.
“In the beginning it was a bit difficult but I think now we are going very good.
“The first game we weren’t used to it, we had to change our mindset. Argentinean teams all through history kicked the ball and scrummaged and had a good defence – but it was very difficult to win every game like that, so we changed and we are going fine now.
“The fans are very happy. They write to us on social media, so we know how they think. They like our way of playing, like us to move the ball and be dynamic. It’s more fun to see your team score tries.”
It is indicative of the change in Argentina’s mindset that the little scrum-half complains bitterly about how European teams like to slow the game and concentrate on the set-piece.
If past Pumas would have boasted fearsome front rows this one’s weapons are on the flanks where they boast the pace of Santiago Cordero, pictured, and the all-round excellence of Juan Imhoff.
“I have watched the video, I have not watched the 80minutes,” says Landajo when asked about Scotland’s game against Australia.
“We know that northern teams kick a lot and slow the breakdown, which is not that fun for us.
“But Scotland are trying to play more, they want to play with the ball. It should be a good game on Saturday.”