Argentina v Scotland, Tucuman, June 12
Parks must tame the Pumas
June 10, 2010
Dan Parks needs to have a big game for Scotland © Getty Images
Scotland can take another big step on the road to recovery this weekend as they face Argentina in the hostile surroundings of the Estadio Monumental Jose Fierro in Tucuman.
After a Six Nations effort that yielded promise but not results, Andy Robinson's charges have a mighty challenge on their hands against the Pumas, who are stronger than the side that defeated the Scots at Murrayfield in November. Scotland have a dismal head-to-head record against their hosts, but they have tasted victory in South America before, halving their 2008 series after dropping the first Test.
The home side have a psychological advantage with the return of key personnel, namely skipper and fly-half Felipe Contepomi and flamboyant back-rower Juan Manuel Leguizamon. Contepomi returns to the international stage after a lengthy layoff with a knee ligament injury, having enjoyed a productive end of the season with Toulon.
"We expect Argentina to be very tough opponents," centre Graeme Morrison said. "I was here two years ago with the Scotland squad. They have a lot of world class players, Contepomi is back, the crowd will be behind them and it will be quite intimidating for us. We've put in some good work this week and I think everyone in the squad is looking to win both games."
Contepomi will go up against Scotland's Dan Parks, who enjoyed a remarkable resurrection during the Six Nations. With three Man of the Match awards and a nerveless penalty to defeat Ireland in the recent past he will not lack for confidence, but he must find a way to get his backline ticking.
Parks has long been a master of dictating play with his kicking game, but with the Scottish pack up against a larger, more experienced Pumas eight the aim of the game may well be to go around rather than through their opponents. There will be a stern examination of the international credentials of promising tight-head Moray Low, who starts in place of the rested Euan Murray, and the added ballast of hooker Ross Ford will also be a bonus.
The Pumas front-row, Rodrigo Roncero, Mario Ledesma and Martin Scelzo, are getting on, but they represent one of the sternest challenges to any front-row in world rugby. Not content with knowing all of the tricks in the book the France-based trio like to test them out every now and again and Robinson will be thrilled if his young pack can earn their stripes.
The Scots will also be involved in a fearsome battle on the floor, although their superb 'Killer Bs' back-row of Kelly Brown, John Barclay and Johnnie Beattie need not be afraid of anyone after establishing themselves as one of the top loose trios in Europe. Their job will be to contain the rumbustious Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Leguizamon, whose flashy yellow boots conceal a mammoth work rate.
Martin Rodriguez, whose boot decided the November meeting between the sides at Murrayfield, moves to fullback to allow Santiago Fernandez a spot at inside-centre. The Montpellier midfielder will likely act as a second playmaker outside Contepomi, with the obvious hope of upping their threat with ball in hand.
Scotland's lack of cut and thrust in the backs was matched by the Pumas in 2009 but there will be renewed hope in the class of their fly-half. A contrast in styles there may be, but an awful lot will rest on the shoulder of the men wearing No.10 come kick-off.
Argentina: M Rodriguez-Gurruchaga (Stade Francais); L Borges (Albi), G Tiesi (Harlequins), S Fernandez (Montpellier), H Agulla (Leicester); F Contepomi (Toulon, capt), A Lalanne (London Irish); R Roncero (Stade Francais), M Ledesma (Clermont Auvergne), M Scelzo (Clermont Auvergne), M Carizza (Biarritz Olympique), P Albacete (Toulouse), G Fessia (Cordoba Athletic), JM Leguizamon (Stade Francais), JM Fernandez Lobbe (Toulon)
Replacements: A Creevy (San Luis), M Ayerza (Leicester), M Galarza (Universitario La Plata), A Campos (Montauban), A Figuerola (CASI), I Mieres (Stade Francais), L Gonzalez-Amorosino (Leicester)
Scotland: H Southwell (Stade Francais); M Evans (Glasgow Warriors), N De Luca (Edinburgh) G Morrison (Glasgow Warriors) S Lamont (Scarlets); D Parks (Glasgow Warriors), R Lawson (Gloucester); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), M Low (Glasgow Warriors), J Hamilton (Edinburgh), A Kellock (Glasgow Warriors, captain), K Brown (Glasgow Warriors), J Beattie (Glasgow Warriors), J Barclay (Glasgow Warriors).
Replacements: S Lawson (Gloucester), G Cross (Edinburgh), S MacLeod (Edinburgh), A Strokosch (Gloucester), M Blair (Edinburgh), P Godman (Edinburgh), J Thompson (Edinburgh)
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)