Preview: Argentina v Scotland

13th Jun 2008, 09:28

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Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe: Aiming to sign off in style

Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe: Aiming to sign off in style

A week ago, this was a Test of experiments. Santiago Phelan's first team selection against Frank Hadden's bright young things for Scotland. Phelan came out on top, and now this second Test is far more important to both sides.

A week ago, this was a Test of experiments. Santiago Phelan's first team selection against Frank Hadden's bright young things for Scotland. Phelan came out on top, and now this second Test is far more important to both sides.

If Argentina could grab a second win - a win without a number of top players currently caught up in the Top 14 play-offs, it would go a long way to confirming that the World Cup-thrilling squad was no one-year wonder, that there is a fresh generation of Pumas coming through who can hold their own at the top. Lose, and the Pumas will know the extent of the re-building job necessary - maybe their union might even be nudged into action.

If Scotland could grab the win - even a couple of tries would be nice - they would at least be able to point to the future with hope. A loss foreshadows only despondency and further shrinkage of Scottish rugby, and may well precipitate the end of Hadden's tenure as well.

It has come that far for Scottish rugby. Only two professional sides in the country, neither making it past the pool stages of the Heineken Cup. Only one win in this year's Six Nations, and that a tryless, rain-washed affair. Shrinking crowds, dwindling finances... the Scots have a whole spectrum of problems. One win at home to England staved off the demons briefly, but a whitewash in Argentina would let them back in.

By far the biggest problem is that of the lack of a game-breaker. Going back to their World Cup quarter-final exit - at the hands of Argentina by the way - and Scotland have scored only four tries in seven matches. Their supposed wizards in the back-line last week did not cast spells so much as fall under their own curse: not once did the Argentinian line look like being irrepairbaly broken.

Faced with a conundrum like that, you'd normally opt to keep the ball up front, but that is suicide against the Pumas as the Scots also found to their cost last week. It's not as if the Pumas are impossible to crack, but they just do the basics so darn well that without a magician you are lost against them. Scotland are yet to find that special player.

Argentina do have that player, and Phelan has perhaps been wise to couple Federico Todeschini at ten with Felipe Contempomi at twelve, mixing the solid with the sublime. Up front, despite missing several first-choice forwards, the Pumas were comfortably top cats last week both at breakdown and in the tight, with only discipline getting away from them at times.

A lack of discipline is the kind of problem that can be quickly rectified. Finding someone who can change a game is not. Scotland's troubles are set to continue.

Ones to watch:

For Argentina: Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe
announced his retirement after this Test earlier in the week, after a long and distinguished Pumas career. You can bet your bottom dollar he'll be signing off in style.

For Scotland: Hugo Southwell reckons it will be more speed from the Scots that will swing this match away from the Pumas, but he's the man to do it from full-back. Southwell has had a much-improved international season, and he could just be the man to inject the genius and give his side a win.

Head to head: The clash of the back rows will once again be crucial, with Hadden singling out John Barclay for a special role at the breakdown in his team selection. It is where Argentina are masters, and where Scotland must break the stranglehold.

Recent results:

2008
Argentina won 21-15 in Rosario
2007 Argentina won 19-13 in Paris (RWC)
2005 Argentina won 23-19 at Murrayfield
2001 Argentina won 25-16 at Murrayfield
1999 Argentina won 31-22 at Murrayfield
1994 Argentina won 19-17 at Ferrocaril Oeste
1994 Argentina won 16-15 at Ferrocaril Oeste
1990 Scotland won 49-3 at Murrayfield

Prediction: It's going to be a long road home for the Scots. Argentina are confident now, and on a ground where they love playing. Argentina by 12 points.

The teams:

Argentina:
15 Bernardo Stortoni, 14 Lucas Borges, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Felipe Contepomi (c), 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Federico Todeschini, 9 Nicolas Vergallo, 8 Manuel Leguizamon, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Martin Durand, 5 Esteban Lozada, 4 Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 3 Santiago Gonzalez Bonorino, 2 Alvaro Tejeda, 1 Marcos Ayerza,
Replacements: 16 Pablo Gambarini, 17 Juan Gomez, 18 James Stuart, 19 Alvaro Galindo, 20 Alfredo Lalanne, 21 Federico Aramburu, 22 Federico Serra.

Scotland: 15 Hugo Southwell, 14 Chris Paterson, 13 Ben Cairns, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Simon Webster, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair (captain), 8 Allister Hogg, 7 John Barclay, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Scott MacLeod, 4 Matt Mustchin, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Alastair Kellock, 19 Kelly Brown, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Dan Parks, 22 Nick De Luca.

Date: Saturday, June 14
Venue: Estadio Jose Amalfini, Buenos Aires
Kick-off: 15:10 (20:10 BST)
Weather: Dry, sunny, strong south-westerly wind, 13°C
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Touch judges: Alan Lewis (Ireland), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Assessor: Dennis Immelman (South Africa)