Vern Cotter is expecting an even faster-paced game against Argentina than last weekend’s Australia classic and believes he has picked a pack which is dynamic and mobile enough to tame the Pumas.
That formed part of the Kiwi’s thinking in selecting Fraser Brown at hooker ahead of Ross Ford, a week after he won his 100th cap, and unleashing two hungry young flankers in the shape of Hamish Watson and debutant Magnus Bradbury.
“We will have to be quick on our feet and quick around the park,” said Cotter of the task ahead tomorrow evening against the side who are eighth in the world rankings, one place above the Scots.
“Fraser gives us those qualities and Ford will bring experience at the end of the game. It will be a faster game.
“That Australia game was probably one of the most physical we’ve ever played. We think this one is going to be just as physical. We anticipate that because they’ve been playing in the same competition, playing against each other.
“So we need to have people on their feet, heads up the paddock as much as possible. A little bit of speed and a little bit of freshness will help that.”
Argentina are no longer the one-trick-pony scrumming behemoths they once were and have cultivated a more expansive offloading game.
“I think we can expect exactly what we’ve seen from Argentina so far. They will attack from anywhere,” said Cotter.
“As soon as they make half a yard forward, they start offloading and keep the ball alive. They’re very dangerous there.
“They’ve got good footwork and that is one of their strengths, the way they keep the ball alive. But that also opens them up for us. If they go for those risky offloads in contact, they are a team who turn over the ball more than any of the other three in the Rugby Championship.
“So, if we defend well and put pressure on them – and the idea is to apply pressure on them – they are a team who will hopefully cough it up, give us the ball back.
“That is something we’re focused on, making the most of that, because we may only get two or three chances to counter-attack, put the ball in behind and apply that pressure. We must do it well.”
Wales actually managed to get on top of the Pumas’ scrum in Cardiff at the weekend when the tourists lost 24-20 but Cotter feels that makes them a more dangerous animal.
“That’s an area they’ll be looking to improve, because they’ve always been very proud of their scrum,” he said.
“You’ve got to get the right mix. You can offload and play at speed, run your forwards a little bit harder, but there is a knock-on when it comes to your set piece.
“They are trying to find a happy medium. We’ve worked just as hard on our set-piece this week, thinking they will probably come back at us there after the Wales game.
“But we still expect them to run from and inside their own half. We expect them to open up. So we need to put pressure on their passing and handling, try to get something from it.
“A lot of work has been done on set piece and defence this week. We’ll try to keep the same attitude in attack, speed the game up when we need to, slow it down when we need to.”
John Barclay starts at No 8 on his 54th cap and will be tasked with guiding the two rookies on either flank – Hamish Watson on his fourth appearance and debutant Magnus Bradbury – through the game.
“That’s the role he has,” said Cotter. “And he does two things. He leads by example, shows them the way – and they follow him.
“And then, when there are key moments in the game, when we stop for a scrum or lineout, when there are key decisions to be made, he helps them by talking them through that so they don’t get lost in the combat and the battle.”