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New-look side brings element of excitement to match

"IT is one for the future." How often over the last 18 months has that been written or said about the Scotland team being sent out to do battle on some foreign field?

Nick De Luca is tackled by Juan Manuel Leguizamon when the sides met in the 2011 World Cup in Wellington; now he is one of very few experienced players in the side as he tries to revive his international career. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Nick De Luca is tackled by Juan Manuel Leguizamon when the sides met in the 2011 World Cup in Wellington; now he is one of very few experienced players in the side as he tries to revive his international career. Picture: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Most of the tme, however, that has been a bit of an exaggeration with a core of experience surrounding the influx of new blood.

This time, there is no hiding place. It is really true. The Scotland side which faces Argentina in Cordoba this evening is one of the least experienced fielded in recent times. Take out the front row and Nick De Luca, who is trying to resurrect a career that had crumbled into decline, and you are left with a team in which the remaining 11 players have a total of 76 caps among them: an average of fewer than seven each.

Fortunately for them, Argentina have been equally adventurous. They went for a raw and and untested squad against Ireland and have gone to even greater extremes with the side that is being sent out to face ­Scotland: nine changes from the one that lost narrowly last weekend.

The hosts had already said they were not going to use the players from the top European clubs for this month's games, preferring to save them for the Rugby Championship, but Daniel Hourcade, the head coach, surprised even his own supporters when he decided to use this game to give the home-based players who had missed out on the two Ireland Tests a chance to prove themselves.

However, Tomas Cubelli, the captain, believes his side have a crucial advantage because the whole group have played in a Pacific Cup tournament in Australia and a South American tournament before this, so while it is a new team at Test level, they are all used to playing as a side.

"It is not the same team for three games in a row but we have to get used to that," he said. "We have been training together for a long time and know each other so everybody is in perfect condition to be ready for the game. It looks as though it is going to be a very good game, a tough game."

With two new teams, it is hard to say which has the advantage, though Jonathan Humphreys, the Scotland forwards coach, is adamant his group is ready for the challenge despite having so many players at the start of their international careers. "Take [Ross] Ford out of the pack and, yes, it is short on international experience, but I am really excited to see what these boys can do," he said. "I am really excited for Grant Gilchrist and Jonny Gray [the locks]; all three of the locks involved are going to be here for a long time. It is good to see what they can do to get the team on the front foot. Gilchrist has been the mainstay of the ­Edinburgh team which has functioned very well at set piece; Jonny Gray has been a revelation.

"I have been a long-term admirer of Blair Cowan and Kieran Low, players people would not know about because they are with a team that has ­struggled for large parts of the season. Then you have Rob Harley who did not have much opportunity in the Six Nations: everybody at ­Glasgow says he is a guy you don't want to train against; you do want on your side. I am really excited to see what they can do. It is very inexperienced but that is the excitement of it. They are fantastic athletes and their form for their clubs has been exceptional."

Humphreys was back in Scotland ahead of the Canada game, training the group that have joined the rest for the second half of the tour. "It had to be done, it was entirely necessary," he said. "We had to get the new players up to speed on the processes and everything else. You have got to remember that these players have not been together since the Six Nations and have all been with their clubs where they do things in a different way. We had to get them back up to speed on the moves, the calls and all the rest, or they would have been too far behind the others.

"The attitude of the players was just exceptional. There was some trouble with numbers, and that was made worse as players were flown out to North America, but the diligence they showed was outstanding."

With so many new faces in the Scotland line up, the settled units in the side are going to have to lead the way, though it may pose a problem that the only places where there is any sense of continuity is the front row, where Ford is breaking the caps record for a hooker, and is supported by Alasdair Dickinson and Geoff Cross, both with more than 30 caps, and the back three, which is the one that does service week-in, week-out for Glasgow.

Ford reckons the Scots are in a good place, confident after grinding out a win over Canada and looking to correct the mistakes that made that match such hard work. "At the end of the day, the boys got the win," he said. "The way we are trying to play puts everybody under pressure, defence and attack. That is the way you win games, by stressing the defence and by trying to play in attack.

"We did force a few errors from ourselves but the boys ground out a win and that is all you can really ask - to win. It was maybe not as pretty as we would have liked but we can build on that momentum that the boys created on that part of the tour."

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