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
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.
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
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.
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
(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.