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Preview: Scotland v Argentina

27th November 2009 07:28

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Ben Cairns sliding over for Scotland

Exciting combo: Cairns and Grove

Scotland will be gunning for a series hat-trick on Saturday with victory over Argentina set to add the gloss to recent success over Fiji and Australia.

Last week's wet-weather win was as unexpected as it was joyous, but as European club rugby followers will have witnessed over the past twelve months, Glasgow and Edinburgh are capable of upsetting anyone on their day. Now the international group seem to be following suit.

Of course there are other more high-profile fixtures over the final round of the November agenda, yet this contest does possess a good slice of intrigue and also significance in that IRB World Ranking points are on offer. There is more.

Add into the equation that the confident Scots have only beaten Argentina once in over fifteen years, and the idea that coach Andy Robinson's honeymoon period will continue should not be taken for granted just yet.

The new man at the helm has made three changes to his victorious charges, with Ben Cairns entering in midfield to partner Alex Grove, flanker Alan MacDonald coming in at number seven while Thom Evans displaces Ulster winger Simon Danielli for a welcome return to the Test scene.

Cairns, MacDonald and Evans are refreshingly rewarded for their A-team efforts against Tonga and will now be looking to make the most of their late opportunity before the Six Nations enters the forefront of Robinson's thought process. So are they now challengers to France and company after a possible unbeaten November?

Victory over a full-strength Wallabies and then Argentina would have been the ideal marker from which to gauge their chances, but that will not be the case, unfortunately.

Australia's lack of depth was highlighted once again last week as Quade Cooper and Ryan Cross stepped in for injured duo Berrick Barnes and Stirling Mortlock. And with the Pumas short of chief playmakers of their own in Felipe Contepomi and Juan Martin Hernandez, they are now not as feared as in previous seasons.

Form then ultimately provides the clearest picture ahead of the Pumas' visit and recent defeats to England and Wales were made worse by a lack of the attacking zest that had thrilled the global game back in Rugby World Cup 2007.

So it seems captain Chris Cusiter is set to become the first man since 2002 to skipper a Scots squad to three-straight November victories or will the Pumas finally click and find their form to poop Robinson's party? We await which Argentina will show up..

Ones to watch:

For Scotland: Worcester youngster Alex Grove has certainly settled into international rugby and it seems he is likely to outlive his on-field talkative mentor Graeme Morrison after the latter was left out by Andy Robinson. Ben Cairns takes his place alongside Grove, who switches to number twelve to accommodate the exciting Edinburgh attacker. Watch him closely against Gonzalo Tiesi.

For Argentina: The attacking mindset and qualities that Argentina's back three have at their disposal is one to be feared by Scotland. Full-back Horacio Agulla is always a constant threat if poorly kicked to but Lucas Borges continues to demonstrate his willingness to run which makes for great viewing.

Head to head: The battle at number eight will always be interesting when Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe takes to the field while the Argentinean front-row also could cause Scotland problems. However, it is at scrum-half where the most interesting match-up will occur as Chris Cusiter and Alfredo Lalanne meet. The Scotland skipper is clearly in-form but so too is the Exile, who will need to be monitored closely on the home fringes and flanks.

Recent results:

2008: Scotland won 26-14 in Buenos Aires
2008: Argentina won 21-15 in Rosario
2007: Argentina won 19-13 at Stade de France
2005: Argentina won 21-13 at Murrayfield
2001: Argentina won 25-16 at Murrayfield
1999: Argentina won 31-22 at Murrayfield
1994: Argentina won 19-17 in Buenos Aires
1994: Argentina won 16-15 in Buenos Aires

Prediction: Form is too much of a factor in this fixture and Scotland's momentum should carry them into the New Year with their tails well-and-truly up ahead of the Six Nations. Scotland by 9 points!

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Rory Lamont, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Ben Cairns, 12 Alex Grove, 11 Thom Evans, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Chris Cusiter (c), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Alan MacDonald, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Moray Low, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Jason White, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Chris Paterson, 22 Nick De Luca.

Argentina: 15 Horacio Agulla, 14 Lucas Borges, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Martin Rodriguez, 11 Federico Martin Aramburu, 10 Santiago Fernandez, 9 Alfredo Lalanne, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (capt), 7 Alejandro Abadie, 6 Alejandro Campos, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Martin Scelzo, 2 Alberto Vernet Basualdo, 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Rodrigo Roncero, 18 Estaban Lozada, 19 Tomas Leonardi, 20 Agustin Figuerola, 21 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 22 Horacio San Martin.

Date: Saturday, November 28
Venue: Murrayfield
Kick-off: 14.30 GMT
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Stuart Terheege (England)
Television match official: Tim Hayes (Wales)
Assessor: Michel Lamoulie (France)

By Adam Kyriacou

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