Scotland play the first of their three summer Tests against Argentina in San Salvador de Jujuy on Saturday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points ahead of the series opener.
Scotland went into this year’s Six Nations with high hopes of success after an impressive run of form in 2021. However, they managed to win just two of their five matches and their campaign ended under a cloud when they were well beaten by Ireland on the same weekend it emerged that a group of players had breached team protocol to go on a night out. Gregor Townsend and his team could do with pulling off some positive results in Argentina as they bid to banish the post-Six Nations gloom and re-establish some positivity a little over a year out from the World Cup.
Scotland must prove they can hold their own in a challenging environment without some of their top players. In the first Test, they will be missing four of the eight Scots who were on British & Irish Lions duty a year ago. Captain Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris and Finn Russell have all been given the summer off to recuperate following busy schedules, while Hamish Watson is absent for this Saturday’s match with a minor injury. The meetings with Argentina, therefore, represent a test of Scotland’s squad depth.
The absence of Russell allows Blair Kinghorn another chance to try to impress at fly-half. Townsend is a big admirer of the 25-year-old Edinburgh player, who has reinvented himself as a number 10 over the past year or so. The head coach clearly feels Kinghorn can step up and challenge the talismanic Russell for the role going forward, as evidenced by the fact he chose him ahead of the Racing 92 man for the final Six Nations match against Ireland. The next few weeks will give Kinghorn an opportunity to show whether he can be a genuine alternative to Russell.
Opportunity also knocks for Rory Hutchinson, who starts at full-back in the absence of captain Hogg. The 26-year-old has been a regular in Scotland squads over the past few years but has not made an appearance for the national team since 2020. Hutchinson has been in excellent form for Northampton, playing primarily as a centre. It remains to be seen if he can step up and fill the considerable shoes of the skipper at number 15.
Ranked one place beneath the Scots at eighth in the world rankings, Argentina – particularly playing at home – are sure to provide stern opposition for the tourists. They have won only one of their last nine matches, but all of their defeats in that period came against top-six nations: South Africa, France, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland. The Pumas have won away to Italy and Wales over the past year and are likely to relish their first home matches for three years. The Scots – who last played in Argentina in 2018 – will encounter a familiar face in the Pumas ranks in the shape of Emiliano Boffelli, who was Edinburgh’s player of the year in the season just finished.