Scotland v Argentina - teams and prediction
PREVIEW: Scotland and Argentina will face off for the fourth time this year, when they meet at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Los Pumas clinched the mid-year series of home soil – winning the opening Test 26-18, Scotland levelling the series with a 29-6 rout, before the hosts won a nailbiter 34-31 1 after coming back from 15 points down at Estadio Único Madre de Ciudades in Santiago del Estero.
The Pumas launched their European tour with an impressive 30-29 win over England at Twickenham, only to lose 20-13 to Wales in Cardiff last weekend.
Scotland suffered narrow losses to Australia (15-16) and New Zealand (23-31), while recording a 28-12 victory over Fiji.
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend is well aware that another loss could turn their year-end campaign into a disaster.
“They [Argentina] are a very good team,” Townsend said.
“They were really good in the mid-year Tests and they’ve carried that form on into the Rugby Championship [where they beat the All Blacks and Wallabies] and they obviously had that cracking win against England a few weeks ago.
“They have some excellent individuals and since playing us [mid-year] they have played together as a team – winning some of those games [against New Zealand and England] away from home.
“They are rightly one of the best teams in world rugby right now.”
Argentina coach Michael Cheika, who guided the Pumas to several impressive wins this year, including their maiden victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand and a 30-29 success against England at Twickenham in the Pumas’ year-end opener, played down that series win.
“Scotland is always a tough test, especially at Murrayfield,” said the Australian, Cheika, previously in charge of his native Wallabies.
Michael Cheika’s team are sixth on the world rankings.
However, both teams will have a point to prove after painful losses last week.
Townsend is looking to last week’s encounter with the All Blacks for inspiration in their last match of the year.
“There was a period of the [New Zealand] game where we put together some of the best rugby we’ve played over the last two years,” Townsend said.
“Disappointment has to fuel the team, what we did has to motivate that we can deliver a better performance this week.”
While Argentina has won two of their last three Tests against Scotland, Scotland has won their last three home games against the Pumas.
Scotland has won just one of their last four home Tests against Southern Hemisphere opposition.
Scotland has beaten the most defenders (74) and made the second-most linebreaks in the year-end Tests – only behind Italy (15), while no side has made fewer linebreaks in the year-end Tests than Argentina (three).
* (Preview continues below video …)
Players to watch
For Scotland: Jack Dempsey is set to make his first start for Scotland, the 28-year-old Glasgow flank, a former Wallaby, having taken advantage of a recent change in world Rugby’s eligibility rules to change allegiance. The back row forward made his Scotland debut off the bench against his native Australia three weeks ago. Dempsey’s inclusion in the starting XV, in place of the injured Hamish Watson, is one of two changes made by Scotland coach Gregor Townsend. Jonny Gray replaces brother Richie in the second row, after the latter was given a three-game ban for foul play against New Zealand. Gifted flyhalf Finn Russell, recalled last week after his controversial omission from the initial year-end squad, has retained the No.10 shirt even though his partner is due to give birth in Paris this week.
For Argentina: Julian Montoya is back to lead Argentina against Scotland. The hooker, Argentina’s regular captain, was a late withdrawal because of an injury, from the side that lost to Wales in Cardiff last weekend. He replaces Agustin Creevy as one of four changes to the starting XV, with the skipper joined in a revamped front row by Eduardo Bello, in for Francisco Gomez Kodela. Bautista Delguy is on the wing in place of Mateo Carreras, while centre Matias Orlando comes in for Matias Moroni, who drops to the bench.
Head to head
@rugby365com: Scotland by six points
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Jamie Ritchie (captain), 6 Matt Fagerson, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Murphy Walker, 19 Glen Young, 20 Andy Christie, 21 Ben White, 22 Blair Kinghorn, 23 Cameron Redpath.
Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Pablo Matera (captain), 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Ignacio Ruiz, 17 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Lautaro Velez-Bazan, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Matías Moroni.
Date: Saturday, November 19
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
Kick-off: 15.15 (15.15 GMT; 12.15 ART)
Expected weather: Roof closed. No impact.
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England); Ian Tempest (England)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)
* Additional reporting by AFP