Argentina v Scotland: World rankings scenarios, chance for fringe trio and how to counter Pumas tactics

There is a combination of results this weekend that could send Scotland down to tenth place in the World Rugby rankings.

Andy Christie is in line to win his second cap after making his Scotland debut during the Six Nations match against France. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Andy Christie is in line to win his second cap after making his Scotland debut during the Six Nations match against France. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Admittedly it would require a couple of big upsets but it’s a timely reminder of where Gregor Townsend’s side are with the World Cup only 14 months away.

Lest we forget, the tournament in France next year has deposited Scotland in Pool B alongside holders South Africa and Townsend’s nemesis, Ireland, the one top nation from the northern hemisphere he has failed to get the better of during his five-year reign.

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This summer’s tour to Argentina is viewed as a significant building block in the World Cup preparations and Saturday’s second Test in Salta is an opportunity for those on the fringes to put their hands up for selection.

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Few did so last weekend as Argentina won 26-18 to move above Scotland into seventh place in the world rankings and into the driving seat to win the three-Test series.

Townsend has changed a third of his starting XV, bringing in scrum-half Ben White, hooker Dave Cherry, second row Sam Skinner and flankers Hamish Watson and Rory Darge. There will also be opportunities from the bench for uncapped winger Kyle Rowe and Saracens back-rower Andy Christie.

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For White, Rowe and Christie in particular it’s a chance to show they belong at this level and have what it takes to force their way into the World Cup plans.

White’s memorable try on his debut as replacement against England in February quickly marked him out as one to watch and Townsend likes what he sees in the London Irish scrum-half. “He’s got a really good kicking game, is strong defensively and has an eye for a break,” said the coach.

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Scotland are looking to bounce back from the first-Test defeat by Argentina. (Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)
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Rowe, a club-mate of White’s, has had to be more patient. Although he was part of the Six Nations squad he never made it into any match-day selections but has impressed Townsend with his aerial ability and kicking as well as his try-scoring prowess.

Christie’s solitary cap came as a replacement against France in March and Townsend feels he has improved since then, bringing “real athleticism” to Saracens in their run to the Premiership final. “He’s fast, he’s got very good acceleration, and that can be of benefit to us in attack and defence,” said the coach.

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Townsend was frustrated with how last week’s game unfolded. Scotland were strangely passive in the first half and the coach will demand more intensity in Salta. His other main grouse was how little the ball was actually in play, with Argentina adept at slowing the game down.

Scrum-half Ben White has 'an eye for a break' says Gregor Townsend. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
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To counter this he will ask his players to be more accurate and disciplined, in the hope of avoiding delays around reset scrums and keeping down the penalty count. He will also expect Scotland to play at a tempo in keeping with his philosophy but is mindful that Argentina will attempt to stymie this.

“If there is a game where there’s low ball in play and it’s stop-start, we have to adjust to that and not be frustrated,” he said.

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Scotland have had another week to acclimatise and although the sides are evenly matched the return of Watson and Darge should give the tourists enough to level the series and jump back above the Pumas in the rankings.

Argentina v Scotland: Estadio Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta, Saturday, 8.10pm BST.

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Argentina: E Boffelli; S Cordero, M Orlando, J de la Fuente, J Imhoff; S Carreras, G Bertranou; N T Chaparro, J Montoya (c), F G Kodela, G Petti, M Alemanno, J M Gonzalez, M Kremer, R Bruni.

Replacements: A Creevy, M Vivas, J Sclavi, L Paulos, F Isa, F Ezcurra, D Miotti, M Moroni.

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Scotland: R Hutchinson; D Graham, M Bennett, S Johnson, D Van der Merwe; B Kinghorn, B White; P Schoeman, D Cherry, Z Fagerson, S Skinner, G Gilchrist (c), R Darge, H Watson, M Fagerson.

Replacements: G Turner, J Bhatti, J Sebastian, S Cummings, A Christie, A Price, R Thompson, K Rowe.

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Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France).

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