Five players have been released from the Scotland squad that travelled from Houston to Argentina overnight, with 28 carrying on for the final Test of the tour, against the Pumas in the northern city of Resistencia on Saturday.
Full-back Ruaridh Jackson, centre Duncan Taylor, hooker Grant Stewart and back-row forwards Matt Fagerson and Luke Hamilton are the five who headed for holidays or home yesterday, as well as scrum-half Ali Price, whose release from the squad on injury grounds was announced last week.
Taylor has not recovered from his back problem and Hamilton injured a shoulder in Saturday night’s 30-29 defeat by the USA. Stewart only joined the squad as cover for tour captain Stuart McInally, so his release implies that the Edinburgh hooker should be able to take part against Argentina, while George Turner and Fraser Brown also remain available for the No 2 jersey.
The continued availability of Stuart Hogg and Blair Kinghorn means Jackson can be released, while the number of back rows in the squad has allowed Fagerson, a debutant on Saturday, to go home early. “It was always our intention to travel to Argentina with a reduced squad,” head coach Gregor Townsend said yesterday.
“The 28-man group travelling to Resistencia will now have the opportunity to bounce back from last night’s defeat with an improved performance.”
Hogg, for one, will welcome that opportunity with open arms, having led the team to defeat in his first outing as captain.
“Everyone is the exact same – bitterly disappointed because of the defeat,” he said.
“We worked incredibly hard during the week to get ourselves into good places but unfortunately came up short.
“A lot of mistakes by us allowed the Americans to get into the game. For us it is really frustrating because the things we talked about at half-time, we did the complete opposite of in the second half.
“It is one thing making a mistake, it is another making two with the snowball effect that comes after that. The majority of their points came from our errors. It is all about momentum shifts and taking opportunities and, credit to America, they did exactly that.”
Taylor’s departure from the squad gives Nick Grigg an enhanced chance of another cap, but the Glasgow centre insisted there was still fierce competition for places despite the reduced numbers.
“It’s dog eat dog,” he said. “There are a lot of good centres and it is frustrating for me because I couldn’t really get going [against the USA].
“We need to get the win next week. We wanted three out of three and we need to bounce back.”