Grant Gilchrist embraces hostility and hospitality awaiting Scotland in Argentina

Scotland are braced for a hostile atmosphere when they take on Argentina in Jujuy but Grant Gilchrist plans to use it to his advantage as the tourists look to make a winning start to the three-Test series.

Grant Gilchrist captained Scotland to victory over Argentina in the Mario Alberto Kempes Stadium in Cordoba in 2014. (Photo: DIEGO LIMA/AFP via Getty Images)
Grant Gilchrist captained Scotland to victory over Argentina in the Mario Alberto Kempes Stadium in Cordoba in 2014. (Photo: DIEGO LIMA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Pumas are playing at home for the first time in three years and things could get a little raucous inside Estadio 23 de Agosto, the 24,000-capacity football ground which is home to Gimnasia, a club in the Argentine second tier.

Gilchrist, the Scotland tour captain, is a seasoned campaigner in Argentina dating back to the 2010 Junior World Cup. That was a bruising but formative experience which included a 73-0 hammering for the Scots under-20s against a rampant South Africa side featuring the young Siya Kolisi.

The Edinburgh lock enjoyed better times when he visited with the full team, winning 21-19 against Argentina in Cordoba in 2014 and 44-15 in Resistencia four years later.

Scotland captain Grant Gilchrist enjoys playing against Argentina. (Photo: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

“I’ve played against them a few times and it’s always a physical battle,” said Gilchrist. “With the individuals they’ve got across the pitch and the style of rugby they want to play, it is a bit crazy at times – but it always leads to entertaining games, and you see that with whoever they play.”

Gilchrist is happy to embrace the strange mix of hostility and hospitality which comes with touring Argentina and expects both in Jujuy.

“I love it. I love the passionate support, the hostile crowds, the hospitality of the people that have been lovely since we have been here.

“The highlights for me the last two times I have been here have been the actual games. Playing in that environment is what you want as a professional rugby player, a Scotland player is to come to these places, in front of these great atmospheres against top teams. That is why we do it.

Edinburgh wing Ramiro Moyano in action for Argentina against Georgia in 2017, the last time the Pumas played in Jujuy. (Photo: JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images)

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“As a player, you love playing in front of noisy crowds. It might be against us but it still gets the hairs on the back of your neck standing up. You also have the ability to influence the crowd with your performance. You notice when the crowd starts to turn or starts to quieten down a bit and that can be a huge lift for an away team.

“Hopefully by the way we play we can quieten them down or turn them against their team. It can be a huge moment for us and something we can get a lot of energy from.”

The Argentina team includes Edinburgh winger Emiliano Boffelli who has enjoyed an outstanding first season in Scotland and Gilchrist is acutely aware of just how dangerous he can be.

“Working with him day in, day out you get to see his personality but most of all you notice his quality, his technical excellence and his passion, what he brings to training every day.

“Now we’re here we’re under no illusions about the quality of the opposition having seen it up close and personal. And that doesn’t just apply to him, but the other guys who’ll be playing as well.”

“When you look at the squad Argentina have got, the players are leading performers with top teams across both hemispheres, that’s the challenge and that’s what we’re excited by.”

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