McInally recovers to lead Scotland against Pumas

RESISTENCIA, Argentina (AP) Daniel Hourcade’s last Pumas selection features a debut among six changes for the rugby test against Scotland on Saturday in Resistencia.

Bautista Ezcurra, who played sevens at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, will play his first test for Argentina at inside center in place of Jeronimo de la Fuente.

Meanwhile, hooker Stuart McInally has recovered from a calf injury to lead Scotland for the first time on their tour of the Americas. He was among eight changes on Thursday after Scotland lost to the United States last weekend for the first time.

In the other Pumas changes, Sebastien Cancelliere was on the left wing for the injured Ramiro Moyano and the rest were in the forwards: Javier Diaz was rotated back at loosehead prop, Matias Alemanno was partnered with Guido Petti at lock, Tomas Lezana was at flanker, and Leonardo Senatore at No. 8 for his 50th test.

”Bautista deserved to play in November but was hurt,” Hourcade said. ”Now he has his chance.”

But this is Hourcade’s last shot with the Pumas.

He resigned last Saturday after they were swept at home by Wales. More than the losing numbers – 23-10 in San Juan and 30-12 in Santa Fe – was the manner of both defeats. Argentina succumbed easily, hardly firing a shot. The Pumas were unimaginative, ponderous, and weak in areas they used to be feared for: Scrum and defense.

Wales was ripe for plucking without most of its British Lions, and the Pumas were high on confidence from the Jaguares winning their last six matches in Super Rugby. But when the Jaguares were passed to Hourcade as the Pumas, they were a shadow of their alter egos.

”My message did not sink in,” Hourcade said in announcing his resignation. ”It makes no sense to prolong the agony.”

Hourcade took over in October 2013 and, promoting all-out attack, led the Pumas to a glorious fourth place at the 2015 Rugby World Cup. But since then, the team has regressed in winning only six out of 27 tests. The players began last year to openly doubt Hourcade’s strategy.

Given the Rugby Championship was only two months away, the Argentine Rugby Union is likely to pass the Pumas reins to Jaguares coach Mario Ledesma, who will hope the Pumas don’t bring their woes back to Super Rugby, where his side was in sight of the playoffs for the first time.

Meanwhile, McInally strained a calf before the team left Scotland, and he missed the thrashing of Canada and the first loss to the U.S.

He’s in a refurbished pack, in which only lock Tim Swinson was retained after losing to the Eagles 30-29 in Houston.

Allan Dell and Simon Berghan prop up McInally, Grant Gilchrist will partner Swinson, and the loose forwards feature Magnus Bradbury, Fraser Brown, and No. 8 David Denton. Brown, usually a hooker, starts on the blindside flank for the first time.

The only change in the backs has winger Dougie Fife, a try-scorer against the U.S., starting for the first time since 2015.

Lineups:

Argentina: Emiliano Boffelli, Bautista Delguy, Matias Orlando, Bautista Ezcurra, Sebastien Cancelliere, Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo; Leonardo Senatore, Pablo Matera, Tomas Lezana, Matias Alemanno, Guido Petti, Nahuel Tetatz Chaparro, Agustin Creevy (captain), Javier Diaz. Reserves: Julian Montoya, Santiago Garcia Botta, Santiago Medrano, Tomas Lavanini, Marcos Kremer, Gonzalo Bertranou, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Juan Cruz Mallia.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg, Dougie Fife, Nick Grigg, Pete Horne, Blair Kinghorn, Adam Hastings, George Horne; David Denton, Fraser Brown, Magnus Bradbury, Grant Gilchrist, Tim Swinson, Simon Berghan, Stuart McInally (captain), Allan Dell. Reserves: George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Zander Fagerson, Ben Toolis, Jamie Ritchie, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, James Lang, Chris Harris.