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Argentina a key destination on Scotland’s World Cup path, says Grant Gilchrist

Grant Gilchrist captains Scotland in Argentina (David Davies/PA)
Grant Gilchrist captains Scotland in Argentina (David Davies/PA)

Grant Gilchrist believes the three-Test series in Argentina is crucial to setting Scotland on the right path ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Gregor Townsend’s side play the first of their matches against the Pumas in San Salvador de Jujuy on Saturday evening.

And Gilchrist, who will captain the Scots in the absence of regular skipper Stuart Hogg, feels they can use their time in South America to start generating momentum and a positive vibe which can carry them towards the showpiece tournament in France in a little over a year.

“For us as a team, we’re at a point now, on the road towards the World Cup, that this series is going to play a pivotal part in setting us on the right road,” said Gilchrist.

“For the guys who don’t have a lot of experience, it is going to be invaluable for them to play in these high-level Test matches away from home.

“It will be a real test of us as a team and as individuals. It’s a great time for us and it will be really important moving forward into the next year.”

Scotland – who have left British & Irish Lions trio Chris Harris, Finn Russell and Hogg at home to recharge their batteries this summer – have several inexperienced players within their touring squad as they look to banish any lingering negativity from an underwhelming Six Nations campaign.

Gilchrist is adamant the whole experience of travelling to South America in a big group will help foster a strong team spirit in the lead-up to the World Cup.

“We’ve looked a lot at the Six Nations, and the guys who were involved want to do things better individually and collectively,” he said. “But this to me feels like a fresh start. It’s a completely different beast coming on tour.

Italy v Scotland – Guinness Six Nations – Stadio Olimpico
Finn Russell is among the absentees for Scotland’s trip to Argentina (PA)

“There are challenges with it in terms of playing away from home in a hostile environment against quality opposition but there are huge positives as we spend four weeks living with each other, and the camaraderie and togetherness you can build in that time can be massive moving forward towards the Autumn Tests and then the World Cup.

“There are huge positives from this experience, especially for the younger guys coming on tour for the first time and getting that exposure to what it’s like.

“Hopefully we can deliver the performances and get the momentum we need as a team going forward but also create experiences and really enjoy ourselves during this four weeks.”

Scotland have won their last five meetings with Argentina, and Gilchrist was part of the team that won 44-15 away to the Pumas in Resistencia four years ago. He is braced for a strong challenge from the hosts.

“I’ve played against Argentina a few times and it’s always a physical battle,” he said. “With the individuals they’ve got and the style of rugby they want to play, it can be a bit crazy at times but it always leads to entertaining games.

“For me personally, I’ve had some great results against Argentina but we’re under no illusions: this Argentina team, when you look at the squad they’ve got and where their players are playing in the world, they’re leading performers across a lot of the top teams in Europe and the southern hemisphere. That’s the challenge and we’re excited about it.”