It’s a little chilly in Chile and that should suit the visitors as they begin their South American tour at Estadio Santa Laura, home to football team Unión Española.
The sides have never met before but this match stops short of being a full Test on the grounds that Gregor Townsend will be without his English-based players.
The tourists should have more than enough in the tank to deal with opponents who are ranked 23rd in the world, 16 places below Scotland. Townsend’s team has a youthful feel to it and the match is a huge opportunity for the three uncapped starters, flanker Ben Muncaster, full-back Ollie Smith and centre Matt Currie; and the three on the bench, hooker Johnny Matthews, prop Murphy Walker and lock Glen Young.
The Scotland coach has already said that “five or six” players will fly home next week as he reduces his squad for the three-Test series against Argentina. Those new to the national team know they need to impress in Santiago to avoid a Love Island-style early eviction.
The inclusion of Damien Hoyland and Rufus McLean on the wings and Sione Tuipulotu at inside centre ensures there is plenty of pace in the back division but Townsend said he would look to vary the attack.
“We want to see the players’ strengths out on the field and we want to move the opposition around. But we also want to break up the game too – that’s not necessarily passing the ball, it could be using a kicking game to move the Chileans around and also bring our defence into play.
“The next level we are looking for from our defence is getting more ball back that we can run off turnover ball, which is the best possession you can have.”
Chile have their sights set on qualifying for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the Scotland game serves as preparation for next month’s two-legged play-off against the United States. Chile eliminated Canada to get to this stage, an impressive scalp given the Canadians’ World Cup pedigree.
“The players are aware that Chile are a confident team and they are very cohesive,” said Townsend. “While many people won't recognise the players’ names, they have been in camp for weeks. A lot of the players play together in the South American championship and they have four players coming from France and Spain.
“They’ll be strong in the set piece, strong in the scrum; they’ll be very physical. From what we’ve seen, they seem to be a team that’s really aggressive in defence. They’ll look to jackal - it’s very similar to what we’ll get against Argentina in the next few weeks.”
It is a step into the unknown for the Scots and Townsend has the luxury of a strong bench to choose from should the unthinkable unfold. Among the replacements is Mark Bennett, a survivor from Scotland A’s last outing, a 16-16 draw with England in 2014.
That was an impressive result but anything other than a convincing victory in Santiago would send a chill through the Scottish camp ahead of a daunting series in Argentina.