Scotland in Argentina: The changes Gregor Townsend could make for second Test in Salta

Having had to wait four years to go on tour, Scotland now find themselves at risk of losing the series with Argentina before they’ve even got to the third Test.

Darcy Graham, tackled here by his Edinburgh club-mate Emiliano Boffelli, struggled for space in the first Test against Argentina.  (Photo by PABLO GASPARINI/AFP via Getty Images)
Darcy Graham, tackled here by his Edinburgh club-mate Emiliano Boffelli, struggled for space in the first Test against Argentina. (Photo by PABLO GASPARINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Gregor Townsend knows he needs to pull something out of the bag in Salta this weekend as his side look to bounce back from losing their opening match to the Pumas in such timid circumstances.

The Scotland coach has a big squad at his disposal – 34 players – and will be tempted to freshen things up after the 26-18 defeat in Jujuy. But Townsend must strike a balance between giving fringe and younger players exposure to international rugby and ensuring Scotland go into the final Test in Santiago del Estero on July 16 with something to play for.

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Much of the focus in the aftermath of Jujuy was on Blair Kinghorn but it would be a surprise if Townsend were to abandon the experiment of playing the Edinburgh man at stand-off.

The blame for Scotland’s pallid performance, particularly in the first half, cannot be laid solely at the door of Kinghorn who was playing at ten for only the third time at Test level. He had little ball to play with in the opening 40 and the onus is on Scotland’s pack to ensure this is rectified on Saturday.

Kinghorn deserves more minutes in the saddle and there were enough glimpses in the second half to suggest he can bring the creativity he has shown at club level.

Where he needs to improve is in his game management and Townsend’s patience with the man he describes as his “attack leader” will only stretch so far. Ross Thompson waits in the wings.

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Kyle Rowe is a wing option for Scotland in the second Test. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Kinghorn’s link-up play with Rory Hutchinson was encouraging and it will be fascinating to see if Townsend persists with the Northampton player at full-back or decides to move him into the centre alongside Mark Bennett.

A Kinghorn-Hutchinson-Bennett axis in midfield looks full of flair but may lack defensive ballast. It would also open the door for Ollie Smith to make his Scotland debut at full-back.

Neither winger managed to get into his stride on the narrow confines of the Jujuy pitch and it could be time to unleash Kyle Rowe in Salta. The London Irish man has had a fine season at club level and could displace Darcy Graham or Duhan van der Merwe.

In the pack, Hamish Watson should be fit enough to return from the chest and shoulder injury he sustained in training and Townsend may be tempted to play both Watson and Rory Darge to increase Scotland’s ball-winning capabilities. The double openside ploy was used against Ireland in the Six Nations and although Scotland lost Townsend felt his side played well in Dublin.

Glasgow trio Sione Tuipulotu, Ollie Smith and Ross Thompson could come into consideration in Salta. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
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Ewan Ashman, the Sale hooker, is another who could come into consideration, as could Glen Young, the athletic Edinburgh lock who offers a pacey, hard-running threat with ball in hand.

Scotland went to South America without Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Chris Harris, Jamie Ritchie, Stuart McInally, Fraser Brown and WP Nel. The logic behind their omission was sound but it is now time for those who did travel to stand up and be counted. It’s not just the Test series on the line but places in next year’s World Cup squad.



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