Scotland tour of Argentina: Grant Gilchrist on captaincy, World Cup planning, new leaders and Kinghorn at 10
The 39-man squad will fly out to Santiago this evening and will warm up for the matches against the Pumas with an A international against Chile on Saturday.
They will then head over the border to Argentina where a slice of rugby history will be made. Never before have Scotland played a three-Test tour against one of the leading nations and the next four weeks are likely to provide head coach Gregor Townsend with plenty to chew over as he assesses his options ahead of next year’s World Cup in France.
In the absence of Stuart Hogg, Gilchrist will skipper Scotland in Argentina, a role he has performed before, but the Edinburgh lock said he was looking no further than this tour in terms of the captaincy.
“It is a huge honour to be asked to captain this squad in a three-Test series,” said Gilchrist. “I’ve never played a three-Test series before so to be asked to lead a young group like this is awesome for me.
“I’m not going to look beyond this tour and making sure that individually and collectively we put the right foot forward. What happens beyond that won’t be up to me.”
Townsend has said the door remains open for Hogg to return as captain if both player and coach feel it is right. The full-back is being rested over the summer along with Finn Russell and Chris Harris.
Hogg’s involvement in an unauthorised night out after Scotland’s win over Italy in March raised questions over his captaincy and the incident cast a cloud over a Six Nations series which began promisingly with a win over England but fizzled out with losses to Wales, France and Ireland.
It was Scotland’s poorest showing in the championship since 2019 and gave players and management pause for thought ahead of a World Cup which will see Scotland battling it out with South Africa, Ireland, Romania and most probably Tonga in Pool B for two available quarter-final places.
Though pleased with aspects of Scotland’s play in the Six Nations, Gilchrist thought too much of it was in the wrong parts of the pitch.
“We played a lot of good rugby in our own half, so we ended up making linebreaks and putting good phases together but we were doing it on our own 10 metre line and not making anything from it,” he said. “So we need to get our kicking game, and our kick-chase game, going.
“The other one that stands out is discipline. We gave away too many penalties, which again invites [opposition] into your own half. We need to look at ways in which we can play our rugby in the opposition's half. I think if we do that all the positives are there from the Six Nations – they just weren't in the right areas so didn't lead to tries.
“We’re going to take on a lot of learnings from the Six Nations. What things we did well and what things we need to improve on. We start our road to the World Cup as of this tour and it’s quite obvious that getting a Test series win in Argentina would be a huge boost going into the autumn, playing back at Murrayfield with that momentum behind us.”
With Hogg, Russell and Harris left at home and Jamie Ritchie out through injury, Scotland are missing a lot of experience and Gilchrist will lean on the likes of Mark Bennett and Hamish Watson for support.
“We’re giving loads of guys opportunities to lead,” he said. “From the more experienced guys we’ve got Mark Bennett, who’s got vast experience at Test level and has played at the Olympics as well. And we have Mish, who’s a Lion and usually shows quiet leadership and we’re asking a lot more from guys like that and they’re responding brilliantly.
“From the younger lads, I know Rory Darge speaks really well and has got great leadership potential. I knew that from when he was a young lad at Edinburgh. He’s got an old head on young shoulders and he’s somebody who will develop into a leader.
“There will be others who will emerge from this tour and that’s part of the excitement of it. Especially in the first week they’re going to get opportunities to pull on the jersey and they’ll have to stand up and lead.”
Much will also be expected of Blair Kinghorn. One year in to his conversion from back-three player to stand-off, the Edinburgh 10 will be tasked with running the game in a Test series.
Kinghorn was selected ahead of Russell in the final match of the Six Nations against Ireland and Gilchrist saw enough in Dublin and over the course of the campaign with Edinburgh to convince him that his club-mate has the mentality and tactical nous to handle the responsibility.
“I’ve been so impressed with Blair this season,” said the second row. “The way he was taking control of our attack shows he’s got both sides to his game, he really thinks about the game.
“This is a tour for him to stand up and lead as well. I’ve seen him do it for Edinburgh all season. He’s been outstanding in the way he’s led and the way he’s played. You see the flashy moments but he’s putting in the work off the pitch and on the pitch to develop all the parts he needs to control the game.
“I still think he did a lot of things really well in the game in Dublin. I think that in any position, but particularly those game-controller positions of halfback and ten, they tend to need a bit of time in the saddle to get used to it.”
June 25: Chile v Scotland A (Santiago, 9pm). TV: live on Premier Sports
July 2: Argentina v Scotland (Jujuy, 8.10pm). TV: live on Sky Sports
July 9: Argentina v Scotland (Salta, 8.10pm). TV: live on Sky Sports
July 16: Argentina v Scotland (Santiago del Estero, 8.10pm). TV: live on Sky Sports
All times BST
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