Daniel Hourcade: Argentina expecting tough battle against Scotland
Los Pumas head coach believes Saturday's encounter at BT Murrayfield will see a clash of styles
Daniel Hourcade expects a tough battle at BT Murrayfield on Saturday as his team prepare to take on a revamped Scotland.
The Los Pumas head coach saw Scotland clinch a 21-19 win over his side in Córdoba in June, as Glasgow Warriors outside-half Duncan Weir slotted a 78th-minute penalty, and he expects another difficult afternoon in Edinburgh.
We are going to try to impose our style and if we succeed, things should go well
Scotland have handed a debut to Glasgow Warriors centre Mark Bennett, who has been in outstanding form for the Guinness PRO12 club so far this season, while his club team-mate Jonny Gray will get the chance to play alongside his older brother Richie in the second row for the first time as 10 Warriors players making the starting XV.
“It’s going to be a tough battle,” he said.
“We are going to try to impose our style and if we succeed, things should go well.”
Since they met in June, Argentina enjoyed one of their best seasons in the Rugby Championship, culminating in a momentous 21-17 victory over Australia in the final round of the competition in Mendoza last month – their first win since they joined what had been the Tri-Nations in 2012.
Back in Edinburgh, former Clermont Auvergne head coach Vern Cotter has been getting to grips with life in the new job, with his squad selection hampered somewhat by a number of injuries which has blighted the capital’s professional club.
Four days after Gunners lock Grant Gilchrist had been appointed captain, he broke his arm playing for his club and was ruled out of the autumn internationals.
For Hourcade, the selection dilemma has not been as difficult and, with many of his star players based in Europe, call-ups have been easier to make than if the match had taken place in South America.
Talisman Juan Martín Hernández wins his 50th senior international cap as he starts alongside Saracens’ Marcelo Bosch – who was rested against the Wallabies – in an experienced midfield.
Grenoble’s Joaquín Tuculet has joined up with the squad after his appearance for the Barbarians last week and starts at full-back. Manuel Montero comes in for Cardiff Blues winger Lucas González Amorosino on the left, with Racing Metro’s Juan Imhoff completing the back three.
Recent Toulon acquisition Nicolás Sánchez, who scored a try from the half-way line when the teams last met, continues at outside-half alongside Martín Landajo.
In the front row, Castres tighthead prop Ramiro Herrera comes in for Nahuel Tetaz Chaparr and packs down with experienced campaigners Marcos Ayerza and captain Agustin Creevy, who both play their club rugby in England.
In the absence of Mariano Galarza, Stade Français lock Juan Cruz Guillemain will make his Pumas debut in the second row as he partner’s Racing’s Tomás Lavanini while Javier Ortega Desio comes in at openside flanker for the unwell Benjamin Macome, who stayed in Argentina rather than join the squad. Blindside flanker Rodrigo Báez and Worcester number 8 Leonardo Senatore complete the back row.
The last time Argentina played in Scotland five years ago, they left with a 9-6 win, but there is even more incentive for them to leave Murrayfield with a victory on Saturday.
Their win over Australia sent them back into the IRB world ranking’s top 10, and an emphatic win over eighth-place Scotland would see them move up to seventh, currently occupied by France.
For head coach Hourcade, there is a clear belief that they can leave victorious if the Pumas can impose their fast, attacking game on the Dark Blues.
“We had a very good Rugby Championship,” he added.
“There were obviously things to improve, but we need to maintain the level, particularly against teams that play differently – with a slower game.
“Whoever imposes his style, will surely win.”
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors); Sean Maitland (Glasgow), Mark Bennett (Glasgow), Alex Dunbar (Glasgow), Tommy Seymour (Glasgow); Finn Russell (Glasgow), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester Rugby, captain); Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby), Ross Ford (Edinburgh), Euan Murray (Glasgow),Richie Gray (Castres), Jonny Gray (Glasgow),Rob Harley (Glasgow), Blair Cowan (London Irish), Adam Ashe (Glasgow).
Replacements: Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Gordon Reid (Glasgow), Geoff Cross (London Irish), Jim Hamilton (Saracens), Alasdair Strokosch (Perpignan); Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow), Duncan Weir (Glasgow), Sean Lamont (Glasgow).
Argentina: Joaquín Tuculet (Grenoble), Juan Imhoff (Racing Metro), Marcelo Bosch (Saracens), Juan Martín Hernández (Toulon), Manuel Montero (Pucará), Nicolás Sánchez (Toulon), Martín Landajo (CASI); Marcos Ayerza (Leicester Tigers), Agustín Creevy (Worcester Warriors, captain), Ramiro Herrera (Castres), Tomás Lavanini (Racing Metro), Juan Cruz Guillemaín (Stade Français), Rodrigo Báez (Liceo Naval), Javier Ortega Desio (Paraná), Leonardo Senatore (Worcester).
Replacements: Matías Cortese (Liceo Naval), Lucas Noguera Paz (Lince), Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro (Lyon), Lucas Ponce (CUBA), Facundo Isa (Santiago); Tomás Cubelli (Belgrano), Santiago González Iglesias, (Alumni), Horacio Agulla (Bath Rugby).