Gregor Townsend is confident that key man Hamish Watson will only miss one of the three summer Tests against Argentina after the Edinburgh flanker was left out of this Saturday’s clash in San Salvador de Jujuy.
The 30-year-old, who was part of the British & Irish Lions squad last summer, picked up an injury last week and will not be risked in this weekend’s meeting with the Pumas.
However, he is expected to be available for the second Test the following weekend.
“We believe it’s the strongest squad we have available for what will be a very challenging test away from home,” said Townsend, reflecting on the team he has selected for the first Test at Stadio 23 De Agosto.
“We’ve got everyone available now apart from Hamish Watson who picked up a knock around his chest/shoulder area at the end of last week.
“The fears at first were that he might have to leave the tour but he has progressed well. He will integrate in training certainly by the start of next week but maybe tomorrow as well with a view to being available for us next week.”
Luke Crosbie, who captained Scotland A in their victory over Chile last weekend, will make his first start for the full Scotland side on Saturday, while his Edinburgh team-mate Mark Bennett will start his first match for the national team since 2016.
Northampton’s Rory Hutchison will play at full-back as he makes his first international appearance since 2020 in a team captained by Grant Gilchrist.
Townsend believes his team will face a formidable challenge against an Argentina side containing Edinburgh’s player of the year Emiliano Boffelli.
“We believe Argentina are one of the strongest teams out there, the equivalent of playing a Six Nations team,” said Townsend. “You’re playing away from home against some of the best individuals in club rugby in Europe.
“There are some quality players playing at Edinburgh every couple of weeks, winning championships for Leicester or winning Super Rugby titles for the Crusaders. Argentina have always had some brilliant players and they seem to have a great crop just now.”
After Scotland A defeated Chile last weekend, Townsend trimmed his squad by five when he sent home Ben Muncaster, Matt Currie, Johnny Matthews, Jamie Hodgson and Damien Hoyland, who scored a hat-trick of tries in Santiago.
“Damien was unlucky,” said Townsend. “I think all of them were unlucky because they’ve left a really good impression in terms of how they played and how they trained. It was a tough decision.
“They wanted to stay on tour. It would be selfish of us if we kept them a few more weeks because they’ve got pre-seasons with their clubs and the club season will come round very quickly. They’ve left a good impression, Damien especially with the three tries.
“They way he worked in that game shows he can play Test level. We hope this experience will drive them through pre-season and into the start of the season with their clubs so they can play Test level again come October/November.”