Scotland v Argentina
Scots hope to burst Argentina's bubble
Will Macpherson
November 7, 2014
Richie Gray starts alongside his brother Jonny in the Scotland second row © Getty Images
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This fixture presents an opportunity for both sides. For Argentina, it's a chance to capitalise on that outstanding win over Australia last month and to continue their impressive progress under coach Daniel Hourcade. For Vern Cotter's Scotland, a side full of inexperienced faces, it's an opportunity to claim a major southern hemisphere scalp and to go into their game with New Zealand next Saturday without fear.

Having taken charge ahead of Scotland's roaming summer tour that visited Canada, USA, Argentina and South Africa, this is Cotter's first assignment on home soil. There's a new slick new Murrayfield playing surface awaiting him after last year's infamous worm-riddled quagmire and he's picked an exciting side to match.

Cotter has packed his side full of Glasgow Warriors - ten of them, in fact, including six backs - and will look for his side to emulate the high-flying club's style of play. With his first two assignments spread months apart, the Kiwi has spent the intervening period picking the brains of Scotland legends like Sir Ian McGeechan, Jim Telfer and Andy Irvine. He expects his side to play in the same fashion.

Team News

  • Scotland:Exciting young centre Mark Bennett makes his debut, while fellow Glasgow man Finn Russell is preferred to Duncan Weir at fly-half. Scrum-half Greig Laidlaw captains the side in Grant Gilchrist's absence, while British and Irish Lion Richie Gray is joined by his younger brother Jonny in the second row. The Glasgow back three of Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour is increasingly settled but the back row - Rob Harley, Blair Cowan and Adam Ashe has a raw look to it, with just 11 caps between them.
  • Argentina:Hooker Agustin Creevy continues as captain but coach Daniel Hourcade has made five changes to the side that beat Australia last month, including handing a debut to lock Juan Cruz Guillemain. Star back rows Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and Juan Manuel Leguizamon are missing but Marcelo Bosch returns at outside centre and his partner Juan Martin Hernandez wins his 50th cap.

As a result, there's plenty to excite the Murrayfield faithful. They know all about Lions Stuart Hogg and Sean Maitland but they're joined by exciting centres Mark Bennett and Alex Dunbar and speedster Tommy Seymour on the wing. Fly-half Finn Russell, who recently turned 22, is a superb prospect. It's the same story in forwards, with Kiwi-born openside Blair Cowan and Jonny Gray - who joins his brother Richie in the second row - full of promise. Cotter will look to his senior campaigners in the front row - Al Dickinson, Ross Ford and Euan Murray - and captain Grieg Laidlaw for solidity. That Richie Gray, at 25, and Hogg, 22, are the third and sixth most capped players in the XV tells of the team's inexperience.

Argentina arrive full of confidence on the back of their first ever Rugby Championship win. Like their hosts, the Pumas side has a new-look and adventurous feel. The 10-12 creative axis of Nicolas Sanchez and Juan Martin Hernandez will be crucial, especially up against inexperienced opponents, and should spark an exciting back line into action.

Sadly it's set to bucket it down in Edinburgh on Saturday, which could stifle the attacking ambitions of a pair of exciting young teams on a fine playing surface. As a result, much will depend on the battle of the breakdown and the right boots of Greig Laidlaw and Nicolas Sanchez.

Key battle:

The battle in the centres will be fascinating. Scotland's Bennett and Dunbar are extremely inexperienced, with just the latter's eight caps to show at this level. But they're a settled combination at this level and have bags of talent. Bennett's eye for a gap and solid defence are particularly eye-catching, while Dunbar's brace saw Scotland register their only win of the 2014 Six Nations against Italy. They may be green at this level but they're surrounded by Glasgow colleagues - in Finn Russell a fly-half not afraid to spread the ball and the entire back three of Seymour, Maitland and Hogg - with whom they've enjoyed plenty of success.

Opposite Bennett and Dunbar are Argentina's experienced pair Juan Martin Hernandez and Marcelo Bosch. Hernandez showcased his supreme creative talents at the 2007 World Cup, while Bosch is a seasoned and solid campaigner who has been a reliable servant for Saracens and Argentina for some years. Such a clash of youth and experience should make for compelling viewing.

In form:

Vern Cotter will hope his sizeable Glasgow continue will be able to translate their fine domestic and European form to the international stage. Bennett has been electric, Seymour has a habit of being in the right place at the right time and Ashe - who played for Scotland before he'd started for Warriors - looks a superb find. Skipper Laidlaw - so crucial as the team's fulcrum and goal-kicker - has made a impressive start to life at Gloucester.

Argentina are riding the crest of a wave after that wonderful performance to down the Aussies in Mendoza. Much will hinge on the performance of outstanding fly-half Nicolas Sanchez, who finished the Rugby Championship as the tournament's top scorer. Sanchez has the lot - kicking from hand and tee and the creativity to get an exciting Argentinian back-line moving - and debuted for Toulon last weekend against Grenoble.

Argentina fly-half Nicolas Sanchez sends out instructions to his team-mates, Wales v Argentina, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, November 10, 2012
Fly-half Nicholas Sanchez will be key for the Pumas © Getty Images
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Out of form:

For all their promise, Scotland are extremely inexperienced. Eight of the starting XV - including the entire back row - have ten caps or less. Cotter has turned his back on experienced campaigners Kelly Brown, John Barclay and Jim Hamilton in favour of greenhorns in a significant gamble.

Argentina are missing significant players of their own, however. Only four of the side who lost to Scotland in Cordoba in June are present and the current crop enjoyed a Rugby Championship of extreme promise. They never looked too likely on the road, however, and didn't have their characteristically formidable scrum of yore. Expect the side whose inexperienced back row controls the breakdown to edge it.

Odds:

It's a close run thing at the bookies but Argentina are favourites - you can get them 1.80 with Unibet. You can get Scotland at 2.0 with the same company.

Stats:

  • Before Argentina's win over Australia last month they'd lost eight straight games and only beaten Uruguay and Chile in 2014.
  • Argentina have not lost at Murrayfield since 1990 - the first full international between the sides - and have only lost five of the 14 fixtures between the sides.

Prediction:

Scotland by 3.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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