sport

Argentina v Scotland preview

Scotland are in for their stiffest June examination to date on Friday night at a time when Vern Cotter's squad has been left threadbare by injury.

It was a wholly unconvincing Scotland that limped past Canada 19-17 in Toronto last week with significant help from the contentious dismissal of Jebb Sinclair.

Cotter has split his touring party in half, with the bulk of those who featured against Canada and the USA now flying home while a select few fly south to join the next batch of arrivals in Buenos Aires to tackle Argentina.

Cotter is low on options, and with a chunk of his squad having departed, has made 11 changes to the XV that took to the field six days ago - only Grant Gilchrist, who captains the side, Peter Horne, Sean Maitland and Stuart Hogg survive.

Nick De Luca was drafted in at short notice, and has, in a bizarre twist of fate, been handed an opportunity to resurrect his Test career and impress the new boss. Tommy Seymour, in scintillating form for Glasgow Warriors, starts on the wing, and Duncan Weir partners Grayson Hart in the half-backs.

Jonny Gray is another enjoying a purple patch - it is, in a way, surprising Gilchrist and not he was entrusted with the captaincy - while a new-look back-row sees London Irish colleagues Kieran Low and Blair Cowan team up alongside Rob Harley.

Argentina, even minus a large chunk of their top names, will present an altogether different and more imposing challenge to the tourists than either North American outfit. Play in Cordoba as they did in Toronto, and the outcome will be sobering.

A ferocious pack, characterised by the infamous "bajada" scrummaging technique, has long been the foundation upon which great Argentine teams are built.

But in the last decade, the flamboyance of Juan Martin Hernandez, Ignacio Corletto, Felipe Contepomi and Agustin Pichot has eaten away at the traditional Argie image, the face of Los Pumas that of Rodrigo Roncero, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, and Mario Ledesma.

Daniel Hourcade has at his disposal a fine array of young talent out wide, as was evident in the past fortnight's Tests against Ireland, both of which were lost narrowly, and did the Argentine stock no harm. Manuel Montero is a hulking, dynamic wing with a nose for the line, while Joaquin Tuculet is a full-back with real swagger.

The half-backs, Martín Landajo and Nicolas Sanchez tend to benefit from the dominance of their pack, but both are extremely shrewd operators well capable of picking holes in what was, last week, decidedly shaky Scottish defence.

Indeed, the most painful reminder of Scotland's gut-wrenching 2011 World Cup exit comes not in the form of Chris Ashton's decisive try at Eden Park, but of Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino waltzing up the touchline in Wellington, brushing aside would-be tacklers, and splashing over the line.

The teams:

Argentina: TBC

Scotland: 15 Hogg, 14 Maitland, 13 De Luca, 12 Horne, 11 Seymour, 10 Weir, 9 Hart; 1 Dickinson, 2 Ford, 3 Cross, 4 Gray, 5 Gilchrist (c), 6 Harley, 7 Cowan, 8 Low. Replacements: 16 MacArthur, 17 Reid, 18 Welsh, 19 Swinson, 20 Fusaro, 21 Pyrgos, 22 Heathcote, 23 Fife.