IT WAS only on Saturday night that Gregor Townsend announced he had decided on 90 per cent of his squad for the first Test against Argentina. In reality, however, he surely reached that position weeks ago.

Even before leaving Scotland, the head coach said his plan for the first week in Santiago was for one team to train to face Chile and another to prepare for the Pumas. There will have to be some overlap between the two games - with a total of 39 players in the squad, at least seven who saw action in the ‘A’ team’s 45-5 win against the Condors will be in the 23 this weekend too. Nonetheless, that separation into two groups was a clear indication that Townsend has a very firm idea of how he wants Scotland to line up for the opening match in the three-Test series, which takes place this Saturday in Jujuy.

That 90 per cent translates to 20 or 21 members of the matchday squad, leaving just two or three places in dispute. The coach suggested that the remaining areas of doubt are largely on the bench, and it is probable that the two positions in question are at full-back and in the back row.

Stuart Hogg, the most significant absentee this summer along with Finn Russell and Chris Harris, has been such a dominant figure in the No 15 jersey over recent seasons that he has no obvious replacement. Ollie Smith, the only specialist in the position among the tour party, acquitted himself well enough against Chile, but the selectors may decide that the uncapped Glasgow back is too inexperienced to throw straight into the first Test in Jujuy.

Blair Kinghorn, of course, has ample experience in the position, but looks sure to be Townsend’s starting 10. Ross Thompson has been the last line of defence for the Warriors, but is on tour as back-up at stand-off to Kinghorn, while Darcy Graham has also filled in at 15 but will be needed on the wing.  

Which leaves Damien Hoyland, Kyle Rowe and Rory Hutchinson. Five years have passed since Edinburgh’s Hoyland won the last of his four caps to date, but, as his hat-trick in Santiago suggested, he has come into the tour fresh and in form after being out with injury for a few months earlier in the year. He played on the wing against Chile, but can slot in at full-back without difficulty.

London Irish winger Rowe was named by Townsend as a possible full-back before the tour, and has enjoyed an excellent season with the Exiles. Hutchinson’s primary position is outside centre, where he will rival Mark Bennett for a starting place, but he has the pace to play in the back three and has also seen action at 10.

If Hoyland or Rowe start, Hutchinson would be a valuable addition to the bench. In fact, given his versatility, his selection could mean no room for Thompson in the 23, with a third backs replacement - possibly SIone Tuipulotu - coming in instead alongside either of the back-up scrum-halves, Ben White or George Horne.

In the back row, there are four who played no part against Chile: blindside Sam Skinner, opensides Hamish Watson and Rory Darge, and No 8 Andy Christie. Matt Fagerson will come into the equation too, having played for the first time at the weekend since recovering from injury. Fagerson’s Glasgow team-mate Scott Cummings also made his comeback from injury against Chile, and will be in contention for a place on the bench this weekend. 

In the front row, Zander Fagerson’s name is inked in at tighthead prop as heavily as anyone’s in the team. It is a slightly different matter at loosehead, where both Pierre Schoeman and Rory Sutherland are sure to feature, although which one starts is by no means certain.

At hooker, meanwhile, much depends on whether George Turner is passed fit. The Glasgow man was unable to travel with the squad because of illness, and is set to spend the next few days in training trying to get back up to speed. If he does so, he could start, but otherwise Ewan Ashman is poised to take the No 2 jersey.

In short, the Scotland line-up against Argentina should be close to the following:

K Rowe; D Graham, M Bennett, S Johnson, D van der Merwe; B Kinghorn, A Price; P Schoeman, G Turner, Z Fagerson, J Gray, G Gilchrist (captain), S Skinner, H Watson, A Christie. Substitutes: E Ashman, R Sutherland, J Sebastian, S Cummings, R Darge, B White, R Hutchinson, S Tuipulotu.

The Pumas, eighth in the world rankings to Scotland’s seventh, will be favourites to win the series. But a team along the above lines has the dynamism and attacking ability that will be needed to upset the odds and get the tourists off to a winning start in the series.