Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Argentina v Scotland Second Test: Summer Tour 2022, Match Preview pt I

Argentina v Scotland
Graphic © Scottish Rugby Blog

KO 8.10pm BST (4.10pm local time)
Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta
Saturday 9th July 2022

Live on Sky Sports Action

Last Saturday saw Scotland lose to the Pumas for the first time since the 2011 RWC – although granted that 11-year spell does cover just six matches. There is plenty on the line as the action moves to Salta with the dark blues needing a win to stay alive in the Test series, get back on track with the buildup to the next World Cup and try and maintain their strong record against the Argentinians – second only to Italy among Tier 1 nations.

Scotland’s win percentage against Tier 1 opposition over the last decade:

  • Italy – 93% (W14, L1)
  • Argentina – 83% (W5, L1)
  • Australia – 50% (W3, L3)
  • France – 36% (W5, L9)
  • England – 30% (W3, D1, L6)
  • Wales – 18% (W2, L9)
  • Ireland – 15% (W2, L11)
  • New Zealand – 0% (L3)
  • South Africa – 0% (L6)

First Test Scouting Report

The Good

Scotland’s returning starters (Mark Bennett and Rory Hutchinson were back in the XV for the first time since 2016 and 2019 respectively) slotted in relatively seamlessly given the length of their absences. The outside centre and full back contributed 5 of the dark blues’ 10 tackle breaks as well as both of the tries scored on the night. If the Scottish attack is to be supercharged this weekend, then this duo will almost certainly be at the very heart of the action.

The Bad

Scotland’s starting back row – all thumping carriers on their day – contributed just 17 metres of ground gained. By way of context the average for the Scottish 6, 7 and 8 during the most recent Six Nations was 59m. Last time they played Argentina away the tally was 75m. Any successful effort in the Second Test almost certainly requires, at the very least, one of the three to break free of the shackles put on them by the Pumas.

(Surprisingly this is not the worst return for a loose trio in the Towsend era. That would be the 12m made by the back row that started against England in 2018. In their defence that was a very different game with the Scottish backs ripping it up for nearly 400m ball in hand so back row carrying wasn’t quite so vital.)

The Ugly

During the first 40 minutes in Jujuy on Saturday evening, Scotland had just 22% territory to work with. That was all-time bad across all 110 halves of rugby that the dark blues have played during the Townsend era. There’s not doubt their hosts were swept along on a wave of support after waiting more than 1,000 days to play in front of their own fans but the Scots were the architects of their downfall in many ways and have faced similarly inspired sides without spending nearly 80% of the opening period stuck in their own half.

The Downright Weird

141 combined carries by Argentina and Scotland – the fewest in any game during the Townsend era. The opening Test proceeded at a remarkably lackadaisical pace throughout. There was very little happening with about 400 fewer match events than average compared to Scotland’s last 50 or so games.

For Argentina, with their nine players over 30 and serious veteran status for some, this made sense. For the Scots, not so much. The fastest rugby in the world may not be in sync with how the game is currently played but the slowest rugby the Townsend era has ever seen is surely even less suitable for the dark blues’ current resources.

Previous results

This will be the tenth time the two sides have met in Argentina. The head-to-head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:


Most recent meeting in Argentina:

Argentina 26 – 18 Scotland

The Scottish Rugby Blog post-match analysis from that game is here.


Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referee 1:  Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referee 2: Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

M. Raynal was in charge for two of Scottish rugby’s most horrifically bad days in recent memory – Tonga at Pittodrie in 2012 and England at Twickenham in 2017. The 2018 trouncing of Saturday’s hosts, Argentina was a welcome change of outcome but that was immediately followed up by business as usual at the Principality Stadium.

The dark blues’ last encounter with the French ref was in 2020 when they came as close as they had for a decade to a win in Dublin. The lopsided penalty count (among many other factors) was enough to see Ireland ease home yet again.

Rather oddly, despite picking up Scottish games for nearly 10 years now, M. Raynal has yet to experience the unbridled pleasure that is officiating at Murrayfield with this being the fifth away fixture he has been the man in the middle for and his only game in Scotland being played in Aberdeen.

Scotland’s previous games with M. Raynal in charge:

  • 2017 – lost to Tonga (H)
    Penalties: 37 (For 25 – 12 Against)
    Cards: Tonga 3 YCs
  • 2017 – lost to England (A)
    Penalties: 18 (For 5 – 13 Against)
    Cards: Fraser Brown (YC)
  • 2018 – beat Argentina (A)
    Penalties: 18 (For 10 – 8 Against)
    Cards: none
  • 2018 – lost to Wales (A)
    Penalties: 25 (For 13 – 12 Against)
    Cards: Wales 1 YC
  • 2020 – lost to Ireland (A)
    Penalties: 23 (For 9 – 14 Against)
    Cards: none

Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow later in the week, after the team announcements.

Scotland team: Rory Hutchinson, Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Sam Johnson, Duhan Van der Merwe, Blair Kinghorn, Ben White; Pierre Schoeman, Dave Cherry, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Grant Gilchrist (capt), Rory Darge, Hamish Watson, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Javan Sebastian, Scott Cummings, Andy Christie, Ali Price, Ross Thompson, Kyle Rowe.

20 Responses

  1. Some really good points in there. It makes you wonder what our game plan was?
    It looks like the key to beating this Argentinian team might be to try to speed up the game, to hold on to the ball and to keep the ball in play longer. So please select our fastest back row combination, and more dynamic mobile locks. Horne at 9 and our fastest backs. We might go down in flames but at least it’ll be more entertaining.

  2. Completely agree with you Big Al this was the reason for the 6/2 bench split on my previous post. Use Darge and Chrystie for first 50 or so to run themselves ragged and get to every brake down then sub for Watson and Crosbie to finish the game. Also Cummings in for Gray. We have to get to those rucks faster snd build our phase play.

    1. How is that going to work with the Tour Captain being dropped as he is a tractor. I doubt that is more than a fantasy. BTW I was not overly impressed with Darge’s few minutes last week. Mind you Toony is unpredictable, could he bench Gilchrist. On what I saw last week Sam Skinner was lively on arrival.

      1. I’d play Gilchrist and Cummings. I’d also start Cherry and then hopefully you have that Cherry/Gilchrist link for the lineout. I’m sure Gray is our best scrummaging lock so maybe bring him on with the reserve front row to sure them up.

  3. Great article as always, Kevin.

    I do feel we need to get a win in this game, so would try and resist going overly experimental with the team selection but at the same time, the point is also to build depth. Would go with:

    Schoeman, Cherry, Fagerson, Skinner, Gilchrist, Christie, Darge, Fagerson, Price, Kinghorn, VDM, Hutchinson, Bennett, Graham, Smith

    Ashman, Sutherland, Walker, Gray, Crosbie, Horne, Tuipulotu, Rowe

    – Gray needs benched. Been pretty ineffectual
    – Need to see whether or not Christie is a genuine option.
    – Watson likely to start all important games up to and including the world cup so need to get Darge minutes here.
    – Try playing Hutchinson in his actual position
    – Would like to see Smith get a start alongside our two most experienced wingers
    – Let’s have a look at Rowe as well

  4. Very interesting article, the back row stats are astonishing. The 1st half was so poor I’ve had to watch it again. Argentina are a good team but Scotland played poorly throughout. The lack of control from 9 & 10 was the root of it, ive said it all season re Kinghorn- not to be trusted, capable of moments of brilliance but……… need to get the basics right so that has to include someone In the team who is a regular kicker (there’s only one – Thompson).
    IMO need to play Crosbie at 6, latterly for Edinburgh he was superb and had a fine game v Chile. Cummings needs to come in too.
    Whilst I could why Hutchinson played at 15 he must play at 12 on Saturday.
    So that’s Smith, Graham, Bennett, Hutchinson, VDM, Thompson, Price
    Fagerson, Darge, Crosbie, Cummings, GG, Fagerson, Cherry, Schoeman
    Kinghorn, Tuipulotu, Horne, Watson, Skinner, Walker, Turner, Bhatti

  5. So Toony has gone with 2 7’s, presumably to try to get to the breakdown quicker and steal some ball. We’ll probably not out-muscle them, just hope we do have the speed to get turnover.
    More frustratingly, Hutchinson still at FB…. Why????? And if Johnson or Bennett goes off, probably a big game of musical chairs as only other recognised FB is Kinghorn, so Thompson then comes on at FH? Please just play the best 12 on tour at 12 and see what creativity that brings.
    Think Toony has also narrowed his options by having Gilchrist as captain; if going for dynamism to win the breakdown, I would prefer Skinner & Cummings but that means dropping the captain. Frustrating.

    1. Basically the same backs as last week. If the first half goes the same as last week then the obvious thing to do would be to take off Johnson, move Hutchinson to 12, Kinghorn to 15 and Thompson on at 10. Having said that Johnson has done nothing wrong but we’re all itching to see if that arrangement works.

      If the result is the same as last week then who knows what team will be put out for the third test and how many of the squad will have toured without playing.

    2. Absolutely agree with you, can we play players in there best positions please

  6. Hmm, it is better, but what’s really wrong with playing a 6,7 & 8 in your back row?
    Pleased to see Cherry and Cummings. I’m now convinced Toonie must think Hutchinson is too lightweight to be an international center, which is sad.
    I’ll be watching Ben White very closely in this game to try to understand what it is that Gregor likes so much.

    Argies possibly not quite as strong this week. I’ll revise my prediction to a 24-24 draw.

    1. You might be right about Hutchinson at 95kg when Johnson is 101kg. Interestingly, Townsend in his prime was 93kg.

      Cam Redpath is 95kg, Duncan Taylor is 100kg. Hugh Jones is 102kg. Mark Bennett is 90kg. Maybe Townsend is looking to offset Bennet’s light weight with a slightly heavier Johnson and use him as the battering ram.

    2. Odds of a draw are 41/2 which is much better than last weeks odds on a draw. What do you know ? I suspect this will be a tight niggly affair. Maybe a day where cards, define the outcome rather than the best team.

    3. Better luck this week Sam, you were a bit out last week but not much. I don’t think the ‘Predict the Score’ blog is going to catch on, you need to be brave for that one.

      Hats of to you Sam. At least you get the thrill of watching the scores build up to that magic number and you might just get the bragging rights after the match.

      1. Lol, well it would be absolutely typical. All the other NH teams produce amazing underdog wins against SH opposition and Scotland…………draw. blowing a decent lead.

      2. Anything could happen Sam, that is the joy we have as Scotland fans.

  7. Why has Ali Price been dropped ? Not that I am complaining, but why drop him. An average and clumsy 10 , Kinghorn, remains and gets a new partner, or should I say scapegoat to justify another selection in the 3rd test. This is another Chris Harris decision, Toony will play Kinghorn till he is competent , masking the fact that a natural 10 would be far further developed if picked in lieu of a guy who will never be better than average. I suppose he does it, because he can.

  8. Townsend is really odd in his selections. Desperate to see Hutch at 12. He might not have the bulk but he has been outstanding this year for Northampton in a very physical league

    Who knows what the result will be. I think the win is paramount. The World Cup is it’s own thing. Especially given the group we have been given. ! Are we seriously getting past SA and Ireland ?

  9. This is why Scotland will go nowhere with Toonie! Playing players out of position like this is inexcusable. Can we have a Boris moment and have Toonie resign

    1. You have to wonder where Scotland might have been had we retained Cotter. Unlike Cotter, who has been offered several roles since, will be clambering for Townsend if he gets freed up. No-One wants a coach that has achieved nothing and led his team to getting beaten by sides well below them in world rankings, invented and binned ‘superfast rugby’. You could go on and on.

  10. Why not have a team of..

    Oli Smith – Kyle Rowe – Sione Tuipolotu – Rory Hutchinson – Duhan Van Der Merwe – Blair Kinghorn – George Horne – Matt Fagerson – Hamish Watson – Andy Christie – Sam Skinner – Scott Cummings – Murphy Walker – Dave Cherry – Pierre Schoeman

    Play players in their position… give new players opportunities, learn what players can actually offer when chucked in the deep end..

    Hutchinson with Tuipolotu on the assumption Townsend thinks a Bennett/hutchinson combo is too lightweight

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion