SCOTLAND defence coach Matt Taylor has identified the four danger men Scotland must close down if they are to emerge victorious from this weekend’s crucial clash with Argentina.
Success in the match will have a significant bearing on the prospects of Scotland securing a favourable draw for the 2019 World Cup. They are currently ninth in the official world rankings but victory would see them leapfrog Argentina into eight position, and therefore place them among the second seeds for the draw for the World Cup, which takes place after the Six Nations.
“First of all, Facunda Isa and Pablo Matera, their blindside flanker and number eight, are extremely good ball carriers. They burst tackles and offload. The number eight launches from the back of scrums close to your line, while the six picks and goes and often beats the first couple of guys, so we have a real focus on the forwards,” said Taylor.
“The nine and ten really make the team tick,” he continued. “The nine [Martin Landajo] particularly loves a quick tap, and he loves sniping around the base of scrums. You saw against Wales the penalty might have been halfway and he tapped and went and chipped so we have to be extremely well prepared defensively for him.”
“The ten [Nicolas Sanchez] is very good: his little chips, his dummies, he gets the team going. Certainly, they have good players across the pitch but those four guys particularly … we’ll be looking to do our best to shut down.”
While much of the focus of the preparation for the match has been on dealing with this quartet as individual players, Taylor added that it is vital that this does not happen to the exclusion of the team’s overall defensive philosophy and structure.
“Argentina offload as many as 20 times a game so we are really conscious of shutting down the channels either side of the ball carrier,” he explained.
“When you intend to offload a lot there is an advantage when the passes stick but there is a disadvantage if you throw them when they are not on. We’ll be looking to have a forceful tackle and shore up those channels either side of the ball carrier. That was one of our focuses against Australia and we managed to turn them over 21 times so it’s a strength and a weakness in any team,” he added.
It is safe to say that Taylor has a healthy respect for Argentina as an attacking force.
“Some of their tries … I said to the players during the week: ‘How good a try is this?’ As much as we are up against them we were marvelling as well. I think they have scored four tries from deep kick-offs and not many teams do that. I think we just have to be up for the occasion, we need to be switched on, we can’t relax at any moment or think that they are going to kick a penalty to touch and turn our backs. They are really good at that and we have been stressing that in the last couple of weeks,” said the Australian defence guru.
“I am sure they will try to exert some pressure on the scrum because that is in their DNA and they have got some big guys. The forwards and Jon Humphreys have worked really hard on the scrummaging this week, as we did against Australia. I am sure that in certain parts of the field, in the 22, they will have more of a driving game, more pick-and-goes, they will have a good scrum either to drive off or to launch the number eight off the back,” he continued.
“But I think that further up the field they will play more side to side, so we have worked really hard on dealing with that in the last three weeks because Australia are a bit similar. We have tried to have good width [in defence], we have tried to press really hard, and we talked to the players about not getting caught by surprise by them playing from deep and taking quick taps.”
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