Scotland v Argentina: Plenty to play for against unpredictable Pumas

Argentina captain Agustin Creevy in action against Australia
Argentina are a a place above Scotland in the world rankings
Autumn international: Scotland v Argentina
Venue: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh Date: Sat, 19 Nov Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Two, Radio Scotland, Radio 5 live sports extra & online

Argentina's 2016 rugby odyssey began in late May with a trip across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacremento, an old town in southwest Uruguay.

There they played their first Test match of the year. Since then, it's been an expedition across the continents. From Uruguay to Chile, from America back to Argentina and onwards to South Africa, New Zealand and Australia before playing the Wallabies in London, Japan in Tokyo, Wales in Cardiff and, now, Scotland in Edinburgh.

Come Saturday, the Pumas will have played 14 Tests in 10 countries in less than six months - and it'll be 15 Tests by the time the curtain comes down on their year.

Scotland will welcome an explosive but inconsistent side to Murrayfield, but also one that can't be far away from keeling over from exhaustion.

This has been a weird fixture in recent years, one that Scotland largely dominated despite the major advances that the Pumas have made in that time. The Scots have won four of the last five including three straight wins in Argentina's own backyard.

The one Scotland lost, of course, was the one that mattered most of all - the 13-12 defeat in Wellington at the 2011 World Cup.

The last five years of these meetings is the classic study of how Scotland are capable of winning games that don't really matter while losing the one that really does.

Argentina come into this on the back of a scrappy loss to Wales and a thumping defeat of Japan. Before that they won one out of six in the Rugby Championship, their sole victory coming against South Africa, an isolated success story when set alongside their five other games.

They lost to Australia by 12 points and 16 points, lost their away leg to South Africa by 13 points and lost to New Zealand by a combined total of 54 points.

Scotland were 41-31 winners when Argentina last visited Murrayfield in 2014
Scotland were 41-31 winners when Argentina last visited Murrayfield in 2014

Against Scotland, they're going in with 11 of the players that did for South Africa and 10 of the men who knocked Ireland out of the World Cup just over a year ago. That was Argentina at their maximum. Quick, accurate, savagely physical and mentally tough.

They were fourth in the world rankings after that huge victory over Joe Schmidt's team, had fallen to sixth before they lost to Wales last weekend and now lie eighth, just one place ahead of Scotland.

In world ranking points, this is an important one for Scotland. In the wake of their late and painful 23-22 defeat to Australia it's also important for their self-esteem to nail this. Scotland put themselves into a winning position and couldn't see it out. They'll have beaten themselves up over that.

For all the mountain of good stuff they delivered, the bottom line was cruel and familiar. These guys have been in that movie before.

This will be Vern Cotter's 30th Test as Scotland coach and Magnus Bradbury will be his 25th new cap. The Edinburgh back-row is only 21 and has earned his chance. Even if John Hardie hadn't been injured and Cornell du Preez had been deemed ready for action, Bradbury had an outstanding claim in any event.

He's a dynamic presence and can carry ball. Scotland have a number of decent back-rows but Bradbury might just have the tools to be an outstanding one. He's up against two major carriers in Pablo Matera and Facundo Isa in the Pumas back-row, both only two years older than him but with 55 caps between them.

Edinburgh back-row Magnus Bradbury
Bradbury has earned his first cap with impressive showings for Edinburgh this season

This Test is about momentum ahead of the Six Nations, about creating a habit of establishing a lead and holding on to it.

In the background there is also the Lions. Players won't be fussing about that just yet. Even if they were dreaming about it they would never admit it.

It's early, but not early. There's five months to go over before Warren Gatland names his squad but, put another way, there's only seven more Test matches and probably only five of them count for much.

The Scottish players have masses of ground to make up on English, Irish and Welsh players. Right now, you'd say there is only one Scot guaranteed his place and that's Stuart Hogg. Gatland is no diplomat. He's not going to pick players on a quota system.

There are, of course, an array of others in with a shout, but the competition is intense and they have to be deemed outsiders as it stands. They're playing catch-up against players who are winning big.

That's part of why Saturday against the Wallabies was so painful for Scotland. It was a chance to send an early message.

To attract Gatland's attention away from the seemingly unbeatable Englishmen, the All Black-beating Irishmen and the Welshmen he knows and respects so much, the Scots are going to have to deliver eye-popping wins. They almost had one. Almost.

They go again on Saturday against the globe-trotting Pumas.