Young Scotland side for Argentina is ‘no gamble’

COACHES will often point out that the team they are fielding is one that could potentially take to the pitch to represent their country in the Rugby World Cup.

Argentina, playing in last weeks match against Ireland in Tucuman. Picture: AFP/Getty
Argentina, playing in last weeks match against Ireland in Tucuman. Picture: AFP/Getty
Argentina, playing in last weeks match against Ireland in Tucuman. Picture: AFP/Getty

But when you look at the sides running out in Cordoba this evening you are probably looking at players more likely to feature in the 2019 tournament than the one next year.

The fact is that this is a development game for both teams. That makes it hard to work out what it means in the great scheme of life and also makes it hard to predict what will happen in the game itself.

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Scotland come into the match with a reasonably settled front row and an equally settled back three, but everything in between those two extremes is a gamble, even the decision to give Nick De Luca, the 41-cap centre, a chance to do a Lazarus act on his international career, and the even more ambitious decision to hand the captaincy to Grant Gilchrist as he wins only his seventh cap.

Argentina, playing in last weeks match against Ireland in Tucuman. Picture: AFP/Getty
Argentina, playing in last weeks match against Ireland in Tucuman. Picture: AFP/Getty
Argentina, playing in last weeks match against Ireland in Tucuman. Picture: AFP/Getty

“It’s not a gamble, it’s exciting,” said Jonathan Humphreys, the forwards coach as the pack finished their final training session at the Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes in Cordoba — a place infamous in Scottish lore as the place where the 1978 football World Cup crashed and burned when defeat by Peru and a draw with Iran left the Tartan Army in tears. “Take Ross Ford out, and it is short on international experience but I am really excited to see what these boys can do,” he said. “I am really excited for Grant Gilchrist and Jonny Gray [the locks] — all three of the locks [Tim Swinson is on the bench] are going to be here for a long time. It is good to see what they can do to get the team on the front foot. Gilchrist has been the mainstay of the Edinburgh team which has functioned very well at set piece; Jonny Gray has been a revelation.

“I have been a long-term admirer of Blair Cowan and Kieran Low, though people would not know much about them because they are with a team that has struggled for large parts of the season. Then you have Rob Harley who did not have much opportunity in the Six Nations. Everybody at Glasgow says he is a guy you don’t want to train against, you do want on your side. I am really excited to see what they can do. It is very inexperienced but that is the excitement of it. They are fantastic athletes and their form for their clubs has been exceptional.”

Nobody can doubt that individually each one of those five deserves his place, but it is far from ideal that they should all have to be thrown together, particularly when you add the short time they have had together with Gilchrist, Low and Cowan all on duty in North America while Gray and Harley were among the group that was training at Murrayfield at the time and joined the rest of the party only this week.

At least they have had some time to adjust, with Humphreys having left the North American tour to take the training in Scotland, which he admits was a “surreal” experience, though also one that was essential as they brought the players up to speed not just on the old calls and moves but also all the changes that Vern Cotter, the new head coach, is trying to introduce.

“It had to be done, it was entirely necessary,” he said. “We had to get the new players up to speed on the processes and everything else. You have got to remember that these players have not been together since the Six Nations and have all been with their clubs where they do things in a different way, we had to get them back up to speed on the moves, the calls and all the rest, or they would have been too far behind the others.

“The attitude of the players was just exceptional. There was a certain amount of trouble with numbers and that was made worse as players kept leaving to join up with the group in North America, but the diligence they showed was outstanding.”

To add to the uncertainty, it is a new half-back combination, Grayson Hart another making his first international start after winning his debut cap only last week amid the late carnage of the match against Canada. Add a new centre partnership and it all looks pretty experimental.

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For the oldest head in the group, however, the signs are good. “It has been a good build-up this week,” said Ross Ford as he prepares to overtake Gordon Bulloch as the country’s most capped hooker. “We got back with the boys who were already on tour and have had some good sessions ever since. They have been intense, which is good, we have been getting the work done and have been performing the skills under a bit of pressure.

“It’s not been ideal preparation, but we caught on pretty quickly. There have been a few new things coming in in principles of play but they have been pretty easy to pick up. It is just a question of going into a Test match and performing now with that knowledge.”

Like all the rest of the group that trained in Scotland, he watched the Canada match on a laptop at Heathrow Airport, and he says there were some solid foundations there among far too many errors.

“At the end of the day, the boys got the win,” he said. “The way we are trying to play puts everybody under pressure, defence and attack. That is the way you win games, by stressing the defence and by trying to play in attack. It was maybe not as pretty as we would have liked but we can build on that momentum that the boys created on that part of the tour.”


Summer Test At Estadio M. A. Kempes, tonight, 8:10pm


15 Lucas González

14 Santiago Cordero

13 Matias Orlando

12 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias

11 Manuel Montero

10 Nicolas Sánchez

9 Tomas Cubelli (capt)

1 Bruno Postiglioni

2 Julian Montoya

3 Matias Diaz

4 Manuel Carizza

5 Matias Alemanno

6 Rodrigo Baez

8 Tomas De la Vega

7 Javier Ortega Desio


16 Santiago Iglesias Valdez

17 Lucas Noguera Paz

18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro

19 Tomas Lavanini

20 Antonio Ahualli de Chazal

21 Martin Landajo

22 Matias Moroni

23 Joaquin Tuculet


15 Stuart Hogg

14 Sean Maitland

13 Nick De Luca

12 Peter Horne

11 Tommy Seymour

10 Duncan Weir

9 Grayson Hart

1 Alasdair Dickinson

2 Ross Ford

3 Geoff Cross

4 Jonny Gray

5 Grant Gilchrist (capt)

6 Rob Harley

8 Kieran Low

7 Blair Cowan


16 Pat McArthur

17 Gordon Reid

18 Jon Welsh

19 Tim Swinson

20 Chris Fusaro

21 Henry Pyrgos

22 Tom Heathcote

23 Dougie Fife