Knee injury forces Chris Cusiter out of first Argentine Test

SCOTLAND captain Chris Cusiter is out of this weekend's first Test against Argentina.

The scrum-half is still struggling with the knee injury which forced him to miss the 24-5 win over a makeshift Japan side at Murrayfield last week. And after admitting defeat in his bid to play this weekend, Cusiter is now focusing on regaining fitness in time for the second Test against the Pumas in Mar del Plata.

"I didn't train fully last week and I probably won't train fully this week until Thursday or Friday so it's too late for the first Test," he said.

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Robinson resisted the opportunity to reveal who would be handed the captaincy in Cusiter's absence, saying: "I will announce it on Thursday, alongside the rest of the line-up."

Robinson has called for his players to work on maintaining their performance levels for the full 80 minutes. The Scots are in South America for two games against the Pumas over the next fortnight, with the first outing in Tucuman on Saturday before the second match in Mar del Plata a week later. The last time the teams met, the Argentines enjoyed a 9-6 triumph at Murrayfield in November, a result which preceded a dismal RBS 6 Nations Championship for the Scots.

Robinson points to his side's solitary victory in that competition, against Ireland in March, as the last time he saw his players perform well for the whole game, and even though Scotland have only won twice in their last nine trips to Argentina, he is eyeing two wins and two solid 80-minute displays this month.

"We are continuing to improve," said Robinson. "The game understanding is improving. Line-out was better in the Six Nations. The consistency of the performance have improved. The last time we played Ireland we played very well but it was on the back of four Test matches in which we played well only in parts. Against Argentina last year, we played well in parts but did not win the game."

For Robinson, there are several keys to claiming victory on Saturday. He said: "To control the scoreboard, we need to be very well disciplined and win our set-pieces because Argentina are very good at that and put us under huge pressure at that."

The series is Argentina's first venture back on to the international stage since clearing the last major obstacle to a place in a top international tournament.

After the Pumas' two meetings with Scotland, group rivals at next year's World Cup in New Zealand, they close their test-window activity against France in Buenos Aires on 26 June in a month when Argentina has also been hosting the junior world championship.

Pichot has shed the light blue and white hoops of the Pumas for a suit and tie since leading them to third place at the 2007 World Cup in France but he is still for Argentine players' rights. Having spent his playing career seeking a better deal for the Pumas, he took the fight to the highest level at the International Rugby Board.

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The last big step came last month with a change in IRB player release regulations to ensure the Pumas would be at full strength in an expanded Tri-Nations tournament from 2012. This was a pre-requisite when they were invited by Sanzar, the body comprising the southern hemisphere's big three, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to prepare their entry into the competition.

"Gus has been a real driver of the whole process," said Mark Egan, head of Development and Performance at the IRB. "He pushed everybody including the IRB to keep the Pumas' project at the top of our agenda. His passion for his country and the Pumas was inspirational."

The rule change making players available to Argentina for the two-month period of what would become a Four Nations tournament could, however, alter European clubs' attitude towards signing them. Egan said European clubs might not be scared off but rather see positives in such a development.

"I think it can work both ways for the clubs," Egan said. "They will not have the Pumas players during the tournament window so some clubs may not see a Puma player as a good investment. However, I have no doubt that some clubs will be attracted to the fact that the Puma players are participating in the toughest international competition in the world which will elevate their skill levels beyond what they currently are and ultimately produce a world class player."