“I’m really looking forward to this game – I think it’s going to be very close and hard to predict. Argentina have played well in both their first two games, and it was very pleasing to show against Romania that there’s more to our game than power and a strong set-piece. We will need to play well in all these areas against Scotland, because they are tough up front and have a number of good strike runners behind the scrum. It should be a very absorbing game.”
Glasgow utility back Federico Aramburu is looking forward to the game against Scotland, despite being submersed in Caledonian surroundings, and there is a sense that everyone associated with Argentina may be growing in confidence. The players actually at this World Cup are starting to talk with increased frequency and, more significantly than this, they seem to believe it.
They have lost a game but it was against England and they accrued a bonus point for finishing within 7 points. Then they hammered Romania. They have 2 bonus points to our 1 and have shown their backs can cut loose. They have also been said to be focussing on the forwards in training. The weathermen expect dewy conditions.
Argentina are known for their humble approach and likeable veteran players; guys who have climbed up out of Argentina and made it big in Europe, signifying longevity. Ledesma (38), Scelzo (35), Roncero (34) and Contepomi (34) are all known around the world. They have also shown that the little known guys like Amorosino and Bosch can play tidy rugby, as much as a Contepomi or a Hernandez. They suddenly seem to have more depth than we had previously assumed.
On top of this these humble men with expectant compatriots, a competition history and a sense of steady improvement have us firmly in their sights. The 2 losses to Scotland in Argentina last year have been expelled from the mind. Indeed they are making a point of telling us this.
“Both games are in the past, we are now focused on the present and this week’s game against Scotland,” Martin Scelzo told the Daily Mail.
“They are a very good team and have improved a lot since those games and they beat us in the last two games. Next Sunday is our chance for revenge against them and we will try to win. It is a big game for us,” Gonzalo Camacho told BBC Scotland.
“It is our most important game in the last four years, so will take the game as a final and we expect to win,” Marcelo Bosch agreed.
Fittingly, then, the last word must go to the talismanic Felipe Contepomi. He is many things: Doctor; Joker; mercurial talent. One thing is for sure, though. He is willing to destroy his body for Argentina and expects the same commitment from the rest of Los Pumas. So when he issues that, “I’m truly confident in all members of the team. If I’m fit to play, I will play. If I’m not, I’m sure we will still be competitive,” you know Argentina are ready for this game.
How do the Scots counteract an opponent growing in confidence and prepared to talk about it? Sometimes you can get caught up in what an opponent is saying; how the build-up climbs. Searching for motivation can be a fool’s errand as you start over-thinking situations and worrying about perception.
Boxer Rocky Marciano once said the best way to go into a bout was to “forget all about the other fellow until you face him in the ring and the bell sounds for the fight.” Scotland won’t be worried about Argentina talking about how vital this game is because it is to be expected. Scotland have to think that as well. The key, however, is to accept that the preparation is over and that it is too late to change anything now. You can only pick a team fit for purpose and send them out on the field.
Scotland have certainly picked a team for a purpose.
I love seeing teams named like this: Scotland: C Paterson; M Evans, N De Luca, G Morrison, S Lamont; R Jackson, R Lawson (capt); A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross, R Gray, J Hamilton, A Strokosch, J Barclay, K Brown. Replacements: D Hall, A Dickinson, N Hines, R Vernon, M Blair, D Parks, S Danielli.
No pomp. No preamble. Just a list of names that have a job to do.
Looking between the commas, though, there is a greater definition of job here. I get a sense that by picking a string of Jackson-Morrison-De Luca we ensure that captain Lawson has a huge day of cajoling the pack ahead of him. Something he thrives with. We clearly expect a forward battle –that’s why we have picked our most abrasive back row with Strokosch –and the collision area could be seen around the middle of the park a bit more whilst both teams size each other up.
The reason that the midfield selections ensure this is because there is not much tactical kicking in these three. Jackson likes to run towards 12, Morrison will attract a few contacts and De Luca will be expected to interest the cover before sliding a pass to Sean Lamont.
Behind these three we will be expecting to counter attack. With or without Contepomi we know Argentina like to rain down kicks to compete for and so by having blunt force with a midfield full of running we can let Evans, Lamont and Paterson focus on countering through broken play. It is surprising that Danielli is chosen to bench for such a style, rather that Rory Lamont, but I like the idea.
This tactic could prove inspired. It could create more tries than we could get from constant one out runners and trundling carries from Ford, Hamilton and Jacobsen. Perhaps, though, like the wide array of words used by Argentina these forward runs and midfield darts will distract our opposition long enough to let our back three counter.
However the game goes though, be it the constant abrasive forward hits paying off or the counter attack surprising the cover defence, the time for talking is almost over.