RWC Build-Up: Longing For Los Pumas

I don’t think I would like to play cards with Andy Robinson.

Sure, when we see the glass box on TV, filled with what looks like all the shiny-headed men in Scottish rugby, it always appears like Robinson is losing the plot. Probably about a breakdown.

Behind the eyes, though, I see cool calculation. I bet he’s the gambler who only plays when he has the hand.

For this reason I see it unnatural for him to take undue risks, even in a warm-up game. You’re supposed to experiment in those, right? Well our Andy probably didn’t even give a second’s thought to playing Laidlaw at 10 for half an hour.

Obviously his hand was forced with regards to this because Lawson looked to be labouring. In other departments, though, he could have been much riskier, had the mood taken him.

Again we return to the debate about whether we wanted to beat Ireland in a Test match. Since the game Ireland have dropped to 6th in the World rankings. We remain at 9th, with Argentina just above us by the slimmest of margins.

Now if we are to take the same supposed opinion against Italy of seeking victory first, team performance second, then measuring our playing resources third I will feel slightly aggrieved. Of course we should beat Italy but as ranking points suggest we would not drop lower than 9th, even if Italy destroy us in a try-fest.

I have previously come out heavily in favour of playing like we would against Argentina. A team with gnarly, street-wise forwards that have no qualms with playing one-out rugby ‘til Contepomi decides to play for territory.

Argentina named their World Cup squad a few days ago and they have selected 17 forwards, 7 of which are front-rowers. Seasoned campaigners like Ledesma, Roncero and Scelza now struggle with the pace of Test match rugby, and others like Leguizamon and Fernandez Lobbe are not the force they once were. Scotland would not want to see if they get tired trading blows before we run them around on the 25th of September.

Offload against Italy as we would want to against Los Pumas.

As a remit I like this. All of the squad can be briefed thusly. The gamble and the difference between how flashy a victory it could be on both occasions, though, is identifiable when we have something in the back three that can cause chaos for Argentina.

The South Americans have selected two Fullbacks: Amorosino (Montpellier) and Imhoff (Duendes). Neither are the sturdiest defenders and need direction from Contepomi constantly, particularly if they have room to return kicks but are faced with an unbroken wall of defenders.

Their wingers, too, are not World Class. Agulla (who will start against England) has done a job for Leicester in darts of attack, but sometimes looks greedy. Gosio is an unknown lad that plays in their domestic leagues.

That is it.

So the plan must be to test the back three with short, pressurised kicks. Sparingly. The rest of the time angles should be cut from one of the Lamont’s at Fullback straightening off of an Ansbro (who must start against Argentina) drift and then having an Evans on the wing outside.

For my money that is the way to beat Argentina: offload around their pack, chopping down the Roncero’s and Ledesma’s that stand 10m from the breakdown to inhale ball, and then spring a simple cut that pushes a full-paced Lamont and Evans pairing at a Gosio, Amorosino or Imhoff. Oh, and pray the chosen Lamont actually passes.

For Italy I would therefore demand the same.

The accepted reasoning is that it is a good sign if you were not in the squad against Ireland. You’re probably on the plane. So we have sufficient offloaders in Barclay, Hines, Brown and maybe Vernon to support the grunt from Jacobsen, Ford and Gray. Evans will go and at least one Lamont, probably both, will as well. Start them all against Italy and start executing now.

Surely Parks or Jackson could play to such a specific Italy/Argentina game plan.

I’d bet my house it would succeed, too. At least on the 20th at Murrayfield…

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.