GREGOR Townsend has decided on all but two or three places in his Scotland squad for Saturday’s first Test against Argentina in Jujuy. Speaking on Saturday night after Scotland A’s 45-5 win over Chile in Santiago, the head coach also confirmed that a small number of players will be released from the squad on Tuesday, before the remaining group head north to the match venue from their current base in Buenos Aires.
“We’re 90 per cent sure of the team we’re going out with next week,” Townsend said. “There were some places to play for today, more on the bench than the starting team, and we now have our English-based players with us – they’re available for next week, so that’s another 12 players available.
“We will have a group of five or six players – we haven’t decided on the numbers – that will leave on Tuesday. We go up to Jujuy on Wednesday afternoon after being in Buenos Aires for three, four days, and there will be a group that won’t come up with us. So our squad will either be 33 or 34 come Wednesday evening.
“We knew this game was a chance to see players that will not be involved in next week’s Test, but it was also very good preparation for us,” he continued. “We trained well, but a game is the best teacher, the best learning for us – what we do set piece, round our kicking game, what we did defensively. In a way I’m glad we had to get those defensive sets in the second half. At the time you’re thinking we should be executing a bit more and scoring more tries, but to go through that period when we had to defend is great practice for us, because we’ll have to defend a lot next week and throughout the three Tests.
“Chile are an improving team but not in the top 20 in the world, while Argentina are eighth in the world and have a squad of professional players in the top clubs in Europe. What we saw today was a committed team that played for 80 minutes that were cohesive and had some good rugby players, but we know Argentina will be a much bigger step up.”
With the game well won by half-time, Scotland’s tempo dropped in the second half at the Estadio Santa Laura Universidad, and they had to defend more than they would care to do against the Pumas. Yet, while recognising that some defensive shortcomings exposed by the home side will need to be addressed, the head coach also suggested that some practice of being on the back foot could well be beneficial for his team.
“The game of rugby is with the ball and without the ball,” he added. “I thought our hustle and work back when we lost ball and Chile made breaks were excellent.
“It’s no bad thing to concede points as well. It reminds everybody we have work to do next week, and next week will be a big step up in terms of opposition and the quality of players we will be up against.”