Scotland v Argentina: Autumn Tests 2018 Match Preview pt I

KO 2.30 at Murrayfield
Saturday 24th November

Live on BBC1

It’s been a mixed bag of results from Scotland in this Autumn series with a great win over Fiji but losses to Wales and South Africa. However even with preparation for next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan probably the priority, Gregor Townsend’s men still have the chance to achieve 6 wins across a full RWC cycle of November Tests. This is something the national side hasn’t managed since 2000-2002:

2016 to 2018 – 5 wins, 4 losses (so far)
2012 to 2014 – 3 wins, 6 losses
2008 to 2010 – 5 wins, 4 losses
2004 to 2006 – 4 wins, 6 losses
2000 to 2002 – 6 wins, 3 losses

Argentina Scouting Report

  • Scrummaging struggles

    Whither the Argentinian setpiece dominance of old? Back in the days when Mario Ledesma was playing for the Pumas, failing to smash every single scrum would have been viewed as a national disgrace. Now head coach, the former hooker’s task is to deal with a pack who have lost 14 scrums on their own put-in during The Rugby Championship and Autumn Internationals, leading to a lowly 74% success rate. Add in props who averaged just under 3 penalties a game during that period and it really is changed days for the Argentinian pack.

    Scotland are not using the scrum as a weapon like they did when the Dickinson/Ford/Nel unit was at its peak. However they’ve been a lot more solid in recent Tests than their visitors on Saturday have. With an 88% success rate on their own ball, the dark blues will see setpieces as an ideal opportunity for clean, quick possession to unleash some backline strike moves and really test the Argentinian defence.

  • Centre of attention

    Since they last met Scotland in the summer, Argentina have averaged 31 missed tackles per game. That’s lead to tackle completion rates that frequently dipped under 80% in matches. Granted it’s a tough business playing New Zealand, South Africa and Australia week in, week out as core Tests, but the Pumas’ defensive work has been well below where they need it to be.

    There seems to be a particular issue around the middle of the Argentinian defence with France’s centres combining for 10 tackle breaks last Saturday evening. That followed on from The Rugby Championship where New Zealand’s Jack Goodhue (with 8 defenders beaten) and South Africa’s Andre Esterhuizen (7) tore it up in midfield against the Pumas. Of course within the last 6 months Scotland’s own Nick Grigg also managed to break 5 tackles from outside centre during the rout in Resistencia. It bodes well for Huw Jones if he gets picked.

  • Delguy is still the one to watch

    Wing Bautista Delguy was the Scottish Rugby Blog’s ‘Rising Star’ among the Argentinian ranks ahead of the two countries’ last meeting in June. Since then the 21-year old flyer has done nothing to suggest that tag wasn’t warranted. 12 tries in 15 matches for the Jaguares and 5 in his first 10 caps for the Pumas have shown a real scoring instinct. More than that though he’s the kind of player who wants to play off the cuff and attack from anywhere.

    With Delguy an option alongside fellow 7s’ graduates Emiliano Boffelli, Ramiro Moyano and Matias Moroni the visitors’ backfield will be filled with very quick players with great feet and evasion skills. They’re the kind of guys who play with their heads up and will find any space that is offered to them. Scotland cannot be loose with their kicking or hand opportunities on turnover ball to the dangerous players that will make up the Argentinian back 3.

Previous results

This will be Argentina’s 8th visit to Murrayfield. The South Americans won 4 in a row during a decade when they grew into one of the rugby powers. Scotland have managed to take the last two victories on their home turf:

W  L  L  L  L  W  W

The sides’ previous encounter in Edinburgh saw the dark blues squeeze home thanks to a (very) late Greig Laidlaw penalty.

The most recent meeting between the two countries came just a few months ago when Scotland blitzed the Pumas during the first half in Resistencia, on their way to a comfortable victory.

Argentina 15 – 44 Scotland

Significant stat:
20: clean breaks made by Scotland – the most in any game during the Townsend era. Lead by the Hornstings partnership at half back (who combined for 7 clean breaks) and with the back 3 of Hogg, Fife and Kinghorn heavily involved (8 clean breaks) the Scottish attack was almost unstoppable – particularly during that breathless opening period.

Officials

Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant 1: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant 2: Dan Jones (Wales)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)

This will be just the second time that Mr. Williams has taken charge of a Scotland game so there aren’t too many patterns to infer from previous encounters. That solitary match against Italy in the summer of 2017 was his Test debut and he made a reasonable fist of things. Mr. Williams was born in Waverley – disappointingly a town in the North Island of New Zealand rather than the Edinburgh train station!

Scotland have done reasonably well with Kiwi refs over the last 3 years. Across 6 matches they’ve ‘won’ the penalty count in 5 and only lost it by a single offence in the other. The dark blues have also emerged victorious in 5 of those games. There tends to be a slightly more laissez faire approach among Southern Hemisphere officials, which should allow the likes of Hamish Watson, Fraser Brown and Stuart McInally a real opportunity to attack the breakdown if they’re smart about it.

Scotland’s previous games with Mr. Williams in charge:

  • 2017 – beat Italy (H)
    Penalties: 26 (For 17 – 9 Against)
    Cards: Italy 2 YCs

The Teams

(Editor’s update 21/11)

Argentina have been touched by tragedy this week which is sure to bring them together as a group, but Scotland should be able to draw on their experience of recent wins over Los Pumas to put this one away. With Russell back to where he started playing at 12, this team is sure to cause some debate but just think of the Finnsanity that backline could cause…

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Blair Kinghorn, Huw Jones, Finn Russell, Sean Maitland, Adam Hastings, Greig Laidlaw; Allan Dell, Fraser Brown, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Josh Strauss.
Replacements: Stuart McInally, Alex Allan, Willem Nel, Sam Skinner, Ryan Wilson, George Horne, Alex Dunbar, Byron McGuigan

Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli, Bautista Delguy, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Ramiro Moyano, Nicolas Sanchez, Gonzalo Bertranou; Santiago Garcia Botta, Agustin Creevy, Santiago Medrano, Guido Petti, Tomas Lavanini, Pablo Matera (capt), Rodrigo Bruni, Javier Ortega Desio.
Replacements: Julian Montoya, Juan Pablo Zeiss, Lucio Sordoni, Matias Alemanno, Tomas Lezana, Martin Landajo, Matias Orlando, Sebastian Cancelliere.

Tags:

When he's not watching Glasgow, Scotland (and even Edinburgh) Kevin can usually be found with his head in a spreadsheet working out the most obscure Scottish rugby related stat he can put out on Twitter.
Follow Kevin on twitter @topofthemoonGW

114 comments on “Scotland v Argentina: Autumn Tests 2018 Match Preview pt I

  1. Greenhorn on

    This is going to be a tough game and now a have to win game for us to be a Real serious rugby nation lets play at a good tempo but hopefully with a bit more control and precision we are not that far away from being truly a world class team.

    Reply
  2. Rosco on

    My team for Argentina.

    Seymour, Laidlaw, Nel, McInally, Wilson, Richie giving way to give others a run.

    15. Hogg
    14. Graham
    13. Jones
    12. Horne
    11. Maitland
    10. Russell
    9. Horne
    1. Reid
    2. Brown
    3. Berghan
    4. Skinner
    5. Gray
    6. Fagerson
    7. Watson
    8. Strauss

    16. Dell
    17. McInally
    18. McCallum
    19. Gilchrist/Cummings
    20. G. Graham
    21. Laidlaw
    22. Hastings
    23. Kinghorn

    Reply
    • Merlot on

      Like the team Rosco, but I would like to Toonie not spin the tombola too much for this one – I’d like to see Skinner given another run at 6 which means Gilchrist in the boilerhouse (Toolis hasn’t really followed through with his club form). Nel and Wilson have started all 3 so far, so they might be out of the 23 altogether, as you propose.
      I’m not sure about dropping Seymour and starting Horne though – I’d rather there were no changes in the backline for once! I can see the reasoning behind it but if we’re going to be consistent performers, let’s have a bit of consistency in selection going forward.

      Reply
      • Rosco on

        Merlot

        The dilemma of selection. Go with the same selection of your A team as much as possible and if results go your way then confidence is flying high. Or blood other player because injuries are inevitable. Also it’s likely GT will rest players during the WC. Certainly against Russia. Don’t know if there is a right answer but I prefer the make small changes in each position over a period of time so there is cover prepared. Also there isn’t an obvious A team so it help GT see the players at this level. There will be changes due to form and injury along the whole journey until we’re out.

        Come the 6 Nations. Less experimentation and focus on developing a rounded performance for 80 mins.

    • Greenhorn on

      Not far off my selection. 15Maitland. 14 Kinghorn. 13 Jones. 12 Horne. 11 Graham. 10 Russell. 9 Laidlaw. 1 Reid. 2 Brown. 3 Berghan. 4 Gilchrist. 5 Gray. 6 Skinner. 7 Graham. 8. Strauss. 16 Dell 17 Turner give Rambo a rest. 18.McCallum. 19 Harley 20 Watson. 21 Horne. 22 Hastings. 23 Harris

      Reply
  3. Big Al on

    Argentina have improved since they changed their coach after we beat them away in the summer. If we don’t have the right attitude for this game we’ll be in trouble even though we are at home.

    Will be interesting to see how much Toony spins the tombola for this one. Also interested to see who gets released back to Glasgow for their game at the weekend.

    Reply
  4. Big Al on

    Wouldn’t be surprised to see a very different set of backs this week. George Horne and Hastings went well against Argentina in the summer as did Grigg. Dunbar might come back in at inside centre. Then you could imagine both Kinghorn and Graham coming in on the wings with Maitland at the back.

    You could end up with Laidlaw, Russell and Hogg on the bench. It could be a fun last 20 minutes.

    Don’t think Toony will be that radical though.

    No idea which combination we will see in the back row this week!

    Reply
    • Rhi on

      I’m not entirely convinced of leaving the “big guns” on the bench after the Wales “experiment” in February. Hornito makes a much bigger impact after 60/70 minutes than Laidlaw does. That would potentially give Glasgow Ali Price back for Friday…

      Although I’m still trying to get over the fact that we can actually have this discussion over who will start, without it being dominated by who is or isn’t crocked.

      Reply
  5. Highland Bear on

    I’m as confused as the rest as to the ultimate purpose of the Toonie tombola at this stage of the RWC cycle. With 14 internationals played one would hope that by now he knows his strongest team, and the capabilities of his squad. After Saturday there are 5 (extremely) competative matches plus 4 friendlies before RWC 2019 starts. The former are no time for experimentation while the latter are glorified training sessions to get players up to match speed, but risky as key players may pick up an injury.

    Win Saturday and the assessment will be Scotland have stood still at best, consolidating their current middle ranking, capable of beating a higher ranked team at home on their day. They won’t have demonstrated they are ready to step upto the top tier by consistently beating the top teams. A draw or loss would be a significant set-back to the Townsend project, showing that the team is overly reliant on the performance of a few key players.

    EUFA has addressed the issue of meaningless friendly international matches with the Nations League. Will World Rugby take note so that the autumn internationals & summer tours have real meaning in terms of RWC ranking or seeding? Rugby as a sport deserves matches with something at stake – Ireland v New Zealand were two heavy-weights slugging it out with a view to psychological domination for the bigger prize to come.

    Reply
      • Referendum on

        Rugby is very much a different sport when it comes to the mentality of a so called friendly. They are all Test matches and have never been given the lack of meaning that football friendlies have been for a while. Players and fans do not see Rugby akin to football in this area (or very many areas infact) at all.

  6. Boston Raider on

    Between now and September 2019 Toony has one job and that is to select the most effective world cup squad available and that’s not possible if he doesn’t try out different combinations rather than the same old running out of Hogg, Seymour, etc. Winning this match is important for morale and keeping the public attention at an appropriate level. I’d like to see a team similar to:

    Kinghorn
    Graham
    Harris
    Dunbar
    McGuigan
    Weir
    Pyrgos
    Reid
    Turner
    McCallum
    Toolis
    Gilchrist
    Graham
    Watson
    Strauss

    McInally
    Turner
    Berghan
    Skinner
    Ritchie
    Laidlaw
    Russell
    Maitland

    We need to get a decent view on players who are genuinely competing for world cup spots. If Weir and Pyrgos can’t cut it at half back then now is the time to find out. Gilchrist and Toolis are very effective at club level, but I’d like to see them against a strong international side.

    Reply
    • Rich on

      To be fair, given neither Weir & Pyrgos have had anything close to a look in, and all previous evidence when they have been called up and played, would suggest they are not capable of cutting it. First 3 scrum halves – Laidlaw, Price, Horne. First 3 standoffs – Russell, Hastings, Horne. Weir is at best 4th choice and Prygos is between 4th and 5th choice (depending on SHC).

      No reason to give them a game here, as unless there is a massive injury crisis, they won’t be travelling to the WC.

      Reply
  7. Rob on

    Not sure where to put this ….
    The future of Scotland centre Huw Jones could become clearer “in the next couple of weeks”, says Glasgow head coach Dave Rennie.
    Reports suggest Jones, 24, has held talks with English Premiership side Leicester Tigers, with his Warriors contract up at the end of the season.
    “I think you probably need to talk to Huw about that,” said Rennie when asked whether Jones had intimated a desire to leave, or held talks about a new deal.

    Reply
    • Not rocket science on

      He’s looked good this season, including playing with Johnson e.g. Cardiff. Before that was injured off the back of an extended SA / international season. Better if Glasgow can hold onto a star player, having lost Nakarawa, Russell, Hogg. Better for Scotland too if he plays for another couple of years with Dunbar, Johnson, Horne and others. If you doubt that look at offloads for Horne’s try. Also, Johnson and Dunbar both injured again. Hopefully, if Rennie is at Glasgow longer and GT has friendly, positive word about the World Cup he stays.

      Reply
    • TeamCam on

      Really don’t get the hate for Jones. I don’t blame him for leaving if you guys are demonstrative if the “fans” he’s leaving behind.

      Reply
      • Ben F on

        I despair in this blog, Huw Jones is already an outstanding talent and is yet to peak. His tacking is not as good as some but better than others.

        He has yet to hog the limelight at Glasgow however I fear we are likely to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs with what is unwarranted criticism.

    • Simmo on

      Jones is a far better player. I have plenty of time for Johnson but hes not at the same level.
      Too many have jumped on the ‘Jones cant defend’ bandwagon when its not the case. (far more knowledgeable rugby people have backed this up)
      And his attacking ability is so far above Johnson’s it almost doesnt matter that some might argue Johnson is a marginally better defender

      Reply
      • Ben F on

        He is not only not at the same level, he could aspire to it , yet Jones can kick on to another level. No harm to SJ , he is more than capable.

    • Ben F on

      I do not agree with you ….What do you think Glasgow is doing for him ? Would his arrival have caused any issues ! Glasgow cannot afford big wages for them all .

      Reply
  8. Borderer on

    Time to stop this tombola nonsense and pick a settled side, we should, barring injuries and a serious loss of form, be selecting pretty much the same 23 all the way to the World Cup now. I would only change Gilchrist for Toolis, Strauss for Wilson and include G Horne on the bench for Saturday.

    Reply
    • Rosco on

      Come the WC the A team will be depleted with the number of injuries at top level rugby. GT needs to know his alternative options and the players need game time to be ready for this.

      The stark reality of the brutality of the game. How many players are out now? They will recover but to be replaced by others on the sidelines.

      Reply
    • Rody on

      GT is not the type of guy to change his mind very quickly. More a stick-to-the-plan kind of guy. So guess, the tombola will take place.

      Reply
  9. Big Al on

    Was just looking at the world cup fixture list:
    Ireland 22nd September
    Samoa 30th September
    Russia 9th October
    Japan 13th October

    I think Toony is going to need to put a B team out for the Russia game as the Japan game 4 days later will be crucial to our qualification and its no gimme. I also think Ireland followed by Samoa could well give us some injuries. Given that I think a lot of what he’s trying to work out just now is who can do a job for him. No wonder the tombola is getting a good spin.

    Reply
    • thebigiam on

      Agreed. Also think GT is looking at not just individuals, but combinations. And even who can do more than one job (see Skinner, Brown, Harris, etc.)

      Lastly, GT is a ‘horses for courses’ selector. He’s never going to have a ‘best 23’.

      Reply
      • JP07 on

        We lost the breakdown against the Boks, Hardie on form would solve some of those problems as could Graham potentially and those two have the rest of the season as a 6/7 albeit I think Graham is more naturally a 7 they have already both started for Falcons in those positions together.

  10. Saltire62 on

    Was looking at this as well – we have 4 games in 21 days with only 4 days between last two so as you say B team against Russia and keep powder dry for Japan who I’m sure have already pinpointed us as the team they have to beat.
    Am I right in thinking WC squad is 31? With 23 involved on match day even with no injuries half the team are likely to only a 4 day turnaround which is what happened to Japan when they played us at last RWC

    Reply
    • SlipJim on

      The other thing to consider is the Boks/Kiwi result. They play the day before we play Ireland. Should the boks win we dont want to beat Ireland because it will just be another quarter final exit to NZ. If NZ win then the Ireland game is a must win to avoid NZ. I dont care what anyone says about you cant win a world cup without beating the best, we on our day can beat anyone including Ireland and the boks but I dont believe we will beat NZ.

      Reply
  11. Fraser on

    Completely disagree that we shouldn’t be using this opportunity to try combinations and give players experience in big games.
    All it takes is 1 or 2 injuries and our second or third choice players could be starting against one of the big guns.
    I would rather they had the chance now, than throw them in when it really matters!

    Of course we shouldn’t pick a complete 2nd choice team against Argentina, but it is sensible to continue with some rotation.

    Some key choices/decisions I would go with….

    9 George Horne – he has to be allowed to start a game this autumn for me. Stop the “only good when he comes on after 60 minutes and the opposition is tired” nonsense. Keep Laidlaw on the bench to steady things later on if needed.

    10 Tricky one, but I would start Russell over Hastings – we know Horne and Hastings combine well, but I think Horne and Russell need some game time together.

    8 I really think Strauss deserves a start – or anyone but Wilson……

    4/5 Skinner should start here, I don’t think he should be picked at 6 (apart from cover on the bench)

    15 Think I would go with Hogg (as long as he is fit). Needs more game time and a good choice if we are playing a few younger guys elsewhere.

    11/14 Kinghorn also needs game time however, so lets put him on the wing.

    12/13 I would stick with Horne and Jones to start, maybe some experimenting later in the game if we are looking comfortable. Having said that – my tombola predication is Hastings starting at 10 with Russell at 12…..

    Would like to see both Grahams either starting or on the bench, plus we haven’t seen anything of McGuigan so far….

    My rough team

    1-3 either start with Glasgow and bring on Edinburgh at 50 minutes or vice versa.
    4-5 Skinner, Toolis
    6 Ritchie
    7 Watson
    8 Strauss

    9 Horne
    10 Russell
    12 Horne
    13 Jones
    11 McGuigan
    14 Kinghorn
    15 Hogg

    subs
    Front row as above
    Gray
    G Graham
    Laidlaw
    Hastings (on for Horne and Russell to 12)
    D Graham (maybe come on for Hogg and shift Kinghorn to 15)

    Reply
      • Fraser on

        Hmm, perhaps not but I quite liked him in a couple of the games he played last year.
        You could argue the same about Harris, and he keeps getting chances….

      • Slomoshun on

        McGuigan is average . Well I have a message for you Byron McGuigan. Pull your socks up, the gaffer brought you in to replace a try scoring machine called Tim Visser . Get out and show us what you can do.

  12. Neil on

    1. Allex Allan
    2. Stuart Mcinally
    3. Simon Berghan
    4. Grant Gilchrist
    5. Sam Skinner
    6. Jamie Ritchie
    7. Hamish Watson
    8. Josh Strauss
    9. George Horne
    10. Adam Hastings
    11. Darcy Graham
    12. Finn Russell
    13. Huw Jones
    14. Blair Kinghorn
    15. Stuart Hogg

    16. Fraser Brown
    17. Allan Dell
    18. Murray Mcallum
    19. Jonny Gray
    20. Adam Ashe
    21. Greig Laidlaw
    22. Alex Dunbar
    23. Sean Maitland

    Reply
    • Neil on

      Eh… Was closest i guess.

      Backrow spot on
      10-12-13-14-15 Axis right
      Berghan and Gilchrist also.

      Anyone beating 10 out of 15 in there prediction for team ?

      Reply
      • Rich on

        I got 11 out of 15 if you ignore that I put Gilco at 5 rather than 4. Starting in the 2nd row is surely close enough.

      • Merlot on

        There aren’t many who would have predicted Hastings and Russell at 10-12, Neil. Nicely done. Although Fraser predicted it a couple of hours before you, as well as McGuigan starting, he also got the second row completely wrong.
        I think we all shared your view of a start for George Horne and Sam Skinner, but they are both on the bench and should get a good run out.
        I only got 13 out of the 23 right, and that included 2 out of position!! Bloody Tombola.

  13. Rich on

    From what I can remember Toonie, said that no player would play all the autumn tests, on that basis I think we can assume the following players will miss out:

    Seymour
    Wilson
    Dell (started or benched for each game)
    Gray

    The obvious exceptions to this are going to have to be hooker and tight head, as our choices at hooker are basically McInally or Brown. Turner is an option, but he’s quite a bit behind those two, so one or both of them are going to have to be involved. At tighthead, we only have Nel, Berghan & McCallum (with Zander injured), Nel & Berghan have been involved in all games so far, so again one or both of them will have to play a part this weekend.

    Based on that criteria I am going to take a stab at the team, which I think we can all assume will look nothing like what Toonie actually plays:

    1. Reid
    2. Brown
    3. Berghan
    4. Skinner
    5. Gilchrist
    6. Ritchie
    7. Watson
    8. Strauss
    9. Laidlaw
    10. Russell
    11. Kinghorn
    12. Dunbar
    13. Jones
    14. Maitland
    15. Hogg

    16. Allan
    17. Turner
    18. McCallum
    19. Toolis
    20. G.Graham
    21. Horne*
    22. Horne
    23. D.Graham*

    *could see either or both being dropped and Harris coming in for one of them, and some wildcard coming in for the other.

    Reply
  14. Rosco on

    Since Japan are for the Autumn tests. For those who have been watching Japan how are they progressing? Probably our closest competition for the No 2 ranking position in our WC pool.

    Ireland, though beatable are clear favourites.

    Japan at home are going to play with incredible tempo and it’s going to require a high quality Scotland performance in the WC to qualify from the pool stage.

    If we do then we will face NZ or SA.

    If we win Pool A, again NZ or SA.

    Reply
    • Fraser on

      Japan looked decent against England but fell off towards the end. Having said that, it was a poor England performance.

      I think Japan have 1 big game in them, and could pull off a big scalp on the right day.

      We certainly shouldn’t take them for granted, but realistically they are still very much tier 2.

      Of course, they will have the home world cup factor…..

      Reply
      • Rody on

        Japan 60 mins maximum, then they are done. If they can sort that out, they are probably a handful. Although I don’t see them playing that ‘different kind of rugby’, like they did on the RWC15, anymore.

  15. Scott M on

    No room for Gary Graham, surprised as I thought Toony would want to have him capped pre 6-Nations. Blade Thomson still has to come back into contention by then.

    Very excited and a bit terrified to see the Hastings-Russel-Jones midfield from the start of a game….

    Reply
  16. thebigiam on

    Totally caught out by classic Toonie tombola! Of several surprises, I thought he cap Graham from the bench just to tie him in…

    One thing that looks clearer after the AIs now – GT wants a playmaker at 12, I reckon…

    Reply
    • Blake Westwood on

      If you need to cap someone just to tie them in then clearly they shouldn’t be playing Scotland. Passion and desire to play for Scotland is a minimum requirement and if someone is just looking over their shoulder for a better offer than I doubt they care much about Scottish Rugby.

      Reply
  17. Fraser on

    Well, looks like my tombola call was right. I still think it’s a shame G Horne isn’t getting a chance to start, but Laidlaw probably more sensible with Hastings and Russell both playing.

    Interesting that the back 3 can all play fullback. Wonder if we will see Hogg coming into the line more since the others can cover.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say we could end up with a similar score to the Fiji game here with our backs really opening up. This game to me is the biggest must win – and win well.

    Reply
  18. James Mckay-Mount on

    I seriously think Scotland are going to put significant points on Argentina. It’ll be like Wales v Tonga where Argentina will be in it until half time, one of their players will get a yellow and then Scotland will put the foot down.

    Reply
  19. JohnMc on

    To quote/paraphrase Harold Macmillan : ‘We’ve never had it so good.’ Well, maybe not ‘never’, but we’re looking at yet another different combination of players put together for the final Test of a four match Autumn where we’ve lost two Tests that we could have won against sides ranked higher, and absolutely humped a good Tier 2 side.

    How many times since the 80s/90s have we had such a breadth of choice available for selection while remaining competitive every time we field a side, whatever side we pick? We should as fans be very happy that we’re in this position, and as such some of us need to suck up the fact we’ve lost a couple of Tests for the sake of greater things that might come our way.

    This Autumn series should help Toonie and his team work out their very best 23/30-odd for 6N 19. That won’t be tombola time as there’s a title to aim for and with Ireland, Wales and Italy at home it will be within reach.

    Toonie can then tombola as much as he likes in the RWC warm up games.

    Looking at this Saturday’s 23, I think we will beat Argentina. And I think we’d beat them with another, very different 23 too. That marks where we are now against where we were in the dark days of 2000 to 2014, when we had simply too few Test class players available.

    Reply
    • TeamCam on

      Yeah, but we didn’t win those two tests against higher ranked sides. When we do that, we can be confident. As it stands, we’re still flaky.

      Reply
      • JohnMc on

        Yes, I know that we didn’t win those two Tests. Which was why I said we’d lost them. So you think we’re flaky still? Maybe so, but we’re a much better side than we were a few years ago, and not so flaky that we get humped routinely as was the case for a decade and a half.
        So, if we’d beaten Wales and SA you’d be ‘confident’, would you? I wouldn’t. I’d be optimistic for our prospects though!

    • thebigiam on

      I do, in my own way, quite like how bullish some supporters have become about Scotland. It might be a bit patronising (no offense meant if it is), but I assume most aren’t old enough to have had to sit through 10-68 humpings to SA!

      I can’t remember a better Scotland team to watch since GT was a player, and it really is a fantastic time, probably made all the more enjoyable for having sat through 15 years of abject misery and boring play…

      Reply
      • Alanyst on

        Agree with the above comments re being (finally) competitive again…

        Still I feel we are running a sort of guerilla game plan….when it comes off it is a joy and wins games.

        In the end though it is too easily stifled by good defensive teams, and then we don’t have the power to compete with the top 5….in a sense that makes us easy to beat.

        Hoping this gets better as the likes of Bradbury, Cummings, Fagerson etc mature

  20. Stu2 on

    Some posters really need to wind their necks in – this Argentina side have beaten SA and Aus in the last few months – it’s not the same side we pumped in June.

    Reply
  21. Scotty on

    ***First time poster***
    Firstly, really enjoy the blog and the comments, good work guys!

    On today’s selection; I know that the AIs are a good time for blooding players and trying new combinations but I do find it slightly concerning that we don’t really know what our best starting XV is. Especially when you consider the other home nations (bar one or two positions) have their key positions pretty well locked down. I know that toonie is a “horses for courses” selector but that just leaves us open to letting the opposition dictate our own style of play.
    On a more positive note, Sam Skinner has been a hell of a find and possibly the best thing to come out of the AIs for us.

    Reply
  22. john on

    Well its going to be exciting, playing that backline means we are planning to play at a frenetic pace. Anywhere in our half we will be a threat. I reckon Laidlaw is in there just to ensure a wee bit of Borders pragmatism is in place. Like the look of this 23 (didn’t like last weeks). Argentina are no mugs but given a fair rub of the green we will win in a thoroughly entertaining game

    shame Sam Johnston & Blade Thompson are injured.

    Reply
      • Scrummo on

        He’s listed variously at 99kg, 103kg and 113kg. Given Ross Ford is 114kg, McInally 108kg, Hardie 103kg and Watson 102kg and given that we’ve seen Brown I think we can safely say he’s not 113kg. Well done for doing some research though but trust your eyes too.

      • TeamCam on

        So Brown’s numbers are wrong but the rest are right?! I’d guess he weighs more than Dunbar and Wilson. He’s pretty stacked. Not that it really matters.

      • Scrummo on

        Na I suspect they’re all wrong but I think he’s certainly lighter than Ford or McInally. As long as he avoids the brain farts that used to plague his game I’d have him first choice hooker either way though. Great to have a choice though.

    • Pbtf on

      Well we’ll well not quite the expert scrumming! Brown is not a converted open side but has hooked since he was 6 in minis at bigger , Edinburgh all ages Scotland u17,18,19,20! Scrum half 2 seasons at merchiston, 7 for 1 season and 1 season at heriots. Def 6’ and 113 kg min currently. Perhaps if you asked him you may discover some facts not fantasy! As for brain farts well trust you’re rugby is perfect.

      Reply
      • Scrummo on

        Fair enough. Do you know him? I still don’t believe he’s almost as heavy as Ford and almost a stone heavier than McInally.

      • Pbtf on

        Friends and team mates from school and like many others mystified by the converted back rower tag , just someone that can play in more than 1 position and if he had to play in back row wouldn’t be running at 113 kg

      • Scrummo on

        Fair play I’m sure I’d read that somewhere, perhaps I’m getting confused with someone else.

        Do you reckon then that generally the weights on the SRU site are accurate?

    • Warks Scot on

      Find this weight issue interesting & as you’ve admitted later yourself Scrummo, they’re probably all wrong! Never thought Gray Jnr was that heavy & surprised if he carries more kg than Gilchrist. Always thought Ritchie was fairly lightly built for a modern forward but 108 kg is a fair weight & defies his build. And while it’s useful to have some heft, it’s what you do with it that really counts. I guess it depends on who’s had the biggest bowl of porridge that particular morning…

      Reply
  23. Warks Scot on

    Today’s selection is definitely interesting. Centres – didn’t see that pairing coming but guess Toonie just wants to see if it has some mileage in case things don’t go to plan come RWC. I actually think Toonie is very close to knowing his preferred team for each opposition, he’s using these tests to carry out a few experiments to confirm his thinking. Back row- would like Graham to have been on the bench because given our limited player pool, yes we do need to tie in decent players & imagine Gary might be wondering what is going on. Would also liked to have seen Harley at some point though perhaps Skinner is now the preferred utility forward, especially as he can jump at line out time. Hopefully Gray senior will be fit again for RWC consideration & probably at expense of Toolis. Happy with the rest of the selections – important to get the win & hope the Hastings/Russell combo seriously delivers.

    Reply
      • Wabster on

        I agree. Horne seems to rise to every challenge eg v Munster recently. This was last chance to significantly add to his minutes as an internationalist before 6 Nations.
        More significantly he is, I believe, a considerably better player than Laidlaw already. To those who say that he does not compare in experience, nous or big match temperament and that is why Laidlaw should be picked I would reply that that is a self perpetuating fallacy.
        Horne could be the missing piece that lifts Scotland to the next level. Who would the opposition rather we picked?

      • Neil on

        I feel laidlaw is the perfect person to close out a game from the bench.

        I think considering Mcinally and Barclay are not starting is the reason Laidlaw starts this one.

        Everyone else in that team is a moron regarding leadership.

      • James on

        Laidlaw will be there to help out Hastings, particularly as he has Russell who’s not played 12 much outside him.

      • Scott M on

        As much as I love watching wee Georgey, Laidlaw does so much for us in terms of game management, goal kicking and general leadership. George Horne is arguably the better rugby player but everyone else seems to play better with Laidlaw on the park.

        Remember it was not that long ago everyone was hailing Ali Price as our new lord and saviour, he was a youngster with plenty to offer but his form dipped and he’s now being written off by many. We should ease George in gently. Let him see out a few games and gain the experience needed to maintain his form for years to come. Greigs done enough to warrant being our first choice for now, hes a British and Irish Lion and first choice SH for the current leaders of the Top 14. Anyone who bemoans his selection doesn’t know enough about rugby to understand what he offers.

  24. Big Al on

    Must admit I thought George Horne would start this one. Having said there isn’t a standout captain on the field if Greg Laidlaw isn’t there. I guess it will between whoever finishes out of Hogg, Gray or Wilson

    Was just looking at the latest rugbypass.com rankings for the Scottish scrum halves:

    George Horne #6 in the world
    Henry Pyrgos #23 in the world
    Greg Laidlaw # 26 in the world
    Ali Price #121 in the world.

    Not sure exactly how they worked that out but Ali Price is clearly out of favour.

    Reply
  25. Saltire62 on

    The toonie tombola rolls on! Generally happy with the team though and looking forward to being there to see how they go. My prediction is Scotland to win by 10 ( hopefully more) but this is a must win game in my book. Anything less would be unacceptable and I’m sure 2/4 would have been minimum target from AI,s.
    Yes we have lost narrowly to 2 teams ranked higher than us which isn’t a disaster but we should be looking to go out and win well as we did against Fiji.

    Reply
    • Neil on

      Saltire i think it probaly has been a bad autumn in a sense regardless of how much we smash argentina by.

      We are past the stage of being heroic losers, minimum 3/4 would have been expected with a win against one of Wales or SA

      There is a genuine chance this side could make a WC Semi- Final/Final if they can get past Ireland in pool 1 or NZ in the Quarters. But after this game we really need to nail down our starting 23 and have them playing consistently to have a chance.

      If we do beat Ireland or NZ in the world cup there is not going to be a harder test.

      Just the test of dodgy referees/Tmo.

      Reply
  26. Referendum on

    I had listened to a podcast from the summer recently where the chaps were discussing what a successful return would be on the away matches we have before the world cup. I think they had said something like win 4 of the 5 to show we have made serious progress and got away from the poor away form. With Wales down that leaves us with the four that are left. I think that is a bit optimistic and if we get three away wins that is what we could expect but at the same time progress. I also think 3 out of 4 wins this autumn would have been progress and 2 out of 4 is par.

    To think the Rugby warm up matches are just glorified training sessions is a bit crazy. Try telling those on the fringes trying to win a place on the plane that that is the case. I also think the SRU are trying to build the home matches especially France match as a big farewell, go and win the cup boys type of party. That really only can fly with a win and a great performance.

    Reply
    • Highland Bear on

      I really hope you are wrong with your latter comment Referendum. Too many shades of the Pre 1978 Soccer World Cup send-off for someone. A good RWC performance would be to come 2nd in Group A. Getting to the semi-finals would mean beating the two top teams in the rankings.

      Reply
      • Referendum on

        I agree with you it is asking for a fall indeed I just got that from the article that announced the dates and times of the pre world cup tests.

        Maybe I’m wrong but a Friday night match against France (correct me if I’m wrong on the date and opposition) has light show, big build-up, come along and see the boys off, kind of feel to it does it not?

        Looking at the draw as you’ve rightly said is a real tough ask and what makes 2015 so tough to take. Argentina were done after beating Ireland and so the most realistic chance of getting to a world cup final was there for us and we and Mr Joubert blew it together.

      • 1.8T on

        It’s true. A bit like this years football World Cup, a lot of the big teams didn’t turn up at the races in 2015. New Zealand were the only team that ever looked like winning. Ireland and England were poor, how many times is that going to happen again?

  27. Big Al on

    Here are the current world rankings according to rugbypass for each player in their preferred positions. There is some science behind all this but they obviously change regularly after every game. Some interesting stuff in here eg McInally rating v Brown, Laidlaw v Horne. Peter Horne is currently our highest ranked centre! Blade Thompson would be our highest ranked 8 if he could get a start but Wilson is pretty high too!

    15. Stuart Hogg VC (Glasgow Warriors) – 64 caps (World Ranking #5)
    14. Sean Maitland (Saracens) – 36 caps (#22)
    13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) – 18 caps (#6)
    12. Finn Russell (Racing 92) – 39 caps (#6)
    11. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh) – 6 caps (#22)
    10. Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors) – 6 caps (#25)
    9. Greig Laidlaw C (Clermont Auvergne) – 65 caps (#26)

    1. Allan Dell (Edinburgh) – 16 caps (#38)
    2. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) – 37 caps (#2)
    3. Simon Berghan (Edinburgh) – 13 caps (#6)
    4. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh) – 27 caps (#11)
    5. Jonny Gray VC (Glasgow Warriors) – 46 caps (#7)
    6. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh) – 5 caps (#28)
    7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh) – 22 caps (#9)
    8. Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks) – 16 caps (#58)

    16. Stuart McInally (Edinburgh) – 21 caps (#11)
    17. Alex Allan (Glasgow Warriors) – 6 caps (#6)
    18. Willem Nel (Edinburgh) – 25 caps (#10)
    19. Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) – 2 caps (#5)
    20. Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors) – 40 caps (#11)
    21. George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) – 4 caps (#7)
    22. Alex Dunbar (Glasgow Warriors) – 30 caps (#35)
    23. Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks) – 5 caps (#62)

    Reply
    • TeamCam on

      I’d be interested to see their algorithm for those rankings. I doubt there are many out there who would say Zebo, Goode or Halfpenny are better fullbacks than Hogg, for example. And though McKenzie is better than those three, I’d still take Hogg over him.

      Reply
    • TheSmidge on

      Not that I was doubting you…but Alex Allan is the 6th highest rated LH in the world! He’s had a good season so far, but I’m a little bit taken aback by that.

      Reply
      • Stu2 on

        It’s a load of gash if you ask me – Gilchrist and Berghan are far too high too.

        Hogg and Jones are too low.

      • Rory Baldwin on

        There is a section on there explaining the ranking factors. It’s a bit like our new-style player ratings but more advanced, with lots of additional scoring metrics based on their position, and also taking into stats like account tackle completions, line breaks etc.

    • Slomoshun on

      This is inaccurate , absolute rubbish, what are they seeing that we dont. Hogg is world class , everyone knows that and he is only ranked number 5.Fraser Brown is number 2 , how can he who misses vital lineouts be number 2.Sam Skinner with just 2 caps is number 5, same as Hogg. So is Sam Skinner world class as well ? What does that make Brown. It makes him the higest rated player in the Scotland Squad, no way , a few others wil have something to say about that, you can see the problem . Scotland is not noted for excellnce in forward play yet the top 3 ranked players consists of 2 forwards. No offence to Al, not his data , but this information beggers belief and is a bit irritating.

      Reply
  28. Big Al on

    I think you can argue with their metrics but it’s probably the most advanced pro player set of metrics in the public domain! I think if you’ve not been playing a lot recently due to injury like Hogg then that doesn’t help your ranking. It also takes club form in to account so Jones is probably down a bit there!

    Reply
  29. Neil on

    After what i presume will happen on Saturday, first choice team when everyone is miraculously fit for 6n.

    1. Allan Dell
    2. Fraser Brown
    3. Zander Fagerson
    4. Richie Gray
    5. Sam Skinner
    6. Magnus Bradbury
    7. John Barclay (c)
    8. Blade Thomson
    9. George Horne
    10. Finn Russell
    11. Sean Maitland
    12. Duncan Taylor
    13. Huw Jones
    14. Tommy Seymour
    15. Stuart Hogg

    16. Stuart Mcinally
    17. Daryll Marfo
    18. Simon Berghan
    19. Grant Gilchrist
    20. Hamish Watson
    21. Greig Laidlaw
    22. Alex Dunbar
    23. Blair Kinghorn

    Unlucky to miss out.

    WP Nel
    Jonny Gray
    Jamie Ritchie
    Josh Strauss
    Adam Hastings
    Peter Horne.

    Reply
    • Toonie's Advisor on

      Well thats a load of urine.

      What has Blade done to merit being a 1st choice 8 on an international stage? look how well Shields is underperforming for England after a rapid introduction.

      Hamish is our best 7. Barclay 6 and Maggie to 8

      Front 5 looks good.

      Still would see Jonny ahead of Gilco but its very close.

      Even though he scored a hat trick 2 weeks ago, Seymour is long passed his sell by date.

      Darryl Marfo can’t even start for Boroughmuir and he’s been fit for ages!

      Reply
      • Not rocket science on

        All these comments about Marfo, on here, in the pod, in the Thistle pod. Can anyone just get on the phone / email / Twitter to his clubs, him any of his teammates, family and ask the question, what’s going on? Where is he and why?

      • Neil on

        I think Glasgow should sign him up, would like to see Gordie Reid back at glasgow also, we have very little depth at prop and they would be cheap signings.

  30. JohnnyJJohnstone on

    Argentina and Scotland are quite evenly matched and have been for several seasons. Forget the dispirited showing the Pumas put up against us in the Summer.

    With home advantage we should prevail, potentially with something to spare, but the Argentinians will be desperate to go home with one test win and (a bit like us) they are good enough to beat anyone on the day. If there is any hint of complacency or “holidays just around the corner” then it will be a tough 80 minutes.

    Reply

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