PREVIEW: Scotland v Argentina
NOVEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Argentina have insisted they will be fully focused on the task at hand when they face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday despite the death of forward Marcos Kremer’s partner this week.
The Pumas will be without lock-cum-flanker Kremer, whose 23-year-old partner, Sofia Pozzi, died of leukaemia on Monday. He had flown home from the Irish leg of Argentina’s European tour when her condition suddenly deteriorated a fortnight ago.
“We are a very close group so it was a difficult moment for the whole team,” said Argentina wing Sebastian Cancelliere, who will be on bench duty in Edinburgh.
“When we go back we’re going to be very close to Marcos, but we are not going to use that as an excuse or extra motivation for this match,” he added.
Argentina have all the incentive they need in wanting to end a four-match losing streak – and to make amends for the 15-44 hammering they suffered against a below-strength Scotland side in Resistencia in June.
That dispiriting defeat led to the departure of coach Daniel Hourcade and the appointment of former Pumas hooker Mario Ledesma, who proceeded to guide Argentina to notable wins against South Africa at home and Australia away in the Rugby Championship.
It seems, though, that Ledesma’s charges have yet to fully recover from their dramatic second-half collapse against Australia in Salta on October 6.
Leading the Wallabies 31-7 at half-time, they slumped to a 34-45 defeat and on the first two legs of their European tour they lost to Ireland in Dublin (17-28) and to France in Lille (28-13).
Ledesma has made three changes to his run-on XV to face the Scots, Matias Moroni coming in at outside centre, Rodrigo Bruni starting at openside flank and Guido Petti shifting from the back row to lock.
‘It’s time to deliver a winning performance’
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 22, 2018
Scotland have won the last four encounters between the countries and coach Gregor Townsend has made eight changes of personnel and two positional alterations to the team beaten 20-26 by South Africa last week.
Hastings, the son of former Scotland captain Gavin Hastings, was outstanding in the pivotal No.10 role in Resistencia and Townsend knows from personal experience about maverick flyhalves playing in the centres, having won 26 of his 82 Scotland caps there.
“I see the roles of No.10 and No.12 being more to facilitate,” said Townsend. “For me, their first role from an attacking point of view is to make sure they are putting others in space. To have two players do that in the first-receiver or second-receiver position has a lot of potential.”
Stuart Hogg has been passed fit to continue in the Scotland No.15 shirt after recovering from an ankle knock that forced him out of action midway through the second half of last Saturday’s loss to the Springboks.
The Glasgow fullback is one of only six survivors from the Scotland XV that ran in six tries past the Pumas in June and he is expecting a sterner test on home ground.
“Argentina have got some terrific individual players and play well collectively,” said Hogg, who moves to English side Exeter at the end of the season.
“They’ve had a couple of cracking wins in the Rugby Championship, so we are fully aware of the challenges which are going to be coming our way.”
Players to watch:
For Scotland: All eyes will be on Adam Hastings at flyhalf for Scotland and more interestingly Finn Russell makes the move to inside centre for this match. The combination of Hastings and Russell could be a match made in heaven or hell for Scotland. Fullback Stuart Hogg is one of the best in the business with ball in hand on attack, while Huw Jones can make something happen out of nothing. Hamish Watson is a powerful ball runner and he is a menace at the breakdowns, while Grant Gilchrist brings a lot of physicality.
For Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli is an elusive ball runner and he has great vision when trying to put others into space. Bautista Delguy and Ramiro Moyano are both lethal finishers out wide. Argentina will need Nicolas Sanchez to stamp his authority on the game and he is more than capable of doing that in pressure situations. Pablo Matera has been a workhorse in all facets of play for Argentina this season, while locks Tomas Lavanini and Guido Petti have great skillsets for big men.
Head to head: Argentina will look to target Scotland’s inside channel with the new combination of Adam Hastings (10) and Finn Russell (12). Nicolas Sanchez and Jeronimo De La Fuente could have a field day in that area if the Scots don’t get things right there. There will be a few big battles up front as well, especially between the back rows. Pablo Matera and Hamish Watson will both look to make a big impact at the breakdowns.
2018: Scotland won 44-15, Resistencia
2016: Scotland won 19-16, Edinburgh
2014: Scotland won 41-31, Edinburgh
2014: Scotland won 21-19, Cordoba
2011: Argentina won 13-12, Wellington (World Cup pool match)
2010: Scotland won 13-9, Mar del Plata
2010: Scotland won 24-16, Tucuman
2009: Argentina won 9-6, Edinburgh
2008: Scotland won 26-14, Buenos Aires
2008: Argentina won 21-15, Rosario
Prediction: it should be an entertaining game. Scotland are at home and they will be looking for a momentum heading into the Six Nations. The Scots will take this one by eight points.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Finn Russell, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Greig Laidlaw (Captain), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 George Horne, 22 Alex Dunbar, 23 Byron McGuigan.
Argentina: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Rodrigo Bruni, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Lucio Sordoni, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Matias Orlando, 23 Sebastián Cancelliere.
Date: Saturday, November 24
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT, 13.30 ART)
Expected weather: It will be mostly cloudy with some spotty showers. There will be a high of 7°C and a low of 3°C with gusts of 11 km/h
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Dan Jones (Wales)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 21, 2018
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