An upper body injury that threatened to put Hamish Watson out of Scotland’s tour before a test had been played means he misses the first game with Argentina on Saturday.
The British Lion is missing from a strong side with Luke Crosbie taking his open-side place ahead of Rory Darge. Watson could return for the second test next week.
Rory Hutchison is the choice to replace resting star Stuart Hogg at 15. Jonny Gray and Duhan van der Merwe also return, with Mark Bennett getting his first start at centre since 2016.
Back training on Friday
Your Scotland team to take on Argentina. #AsOne
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) June 30, 2022
Watson suffered the knock in training before the Chile game last week and the prognosis initially was not good, said head coach Gregor Townsend.
“It was around the chest and shoulder area,” said Townsend. “The fear at first was that he might have to leave the tour.
“But he has progressed well, and he’ll be re-integrated into training maybe by tomorrow (Friday).
“He’ll hopefully be available for next week. We didn’t feel it was a risk worth taking this weekend.”
Townsend called the team “the strongest we have available for the strongest of challenges away from home.
“We see Argentina as the equivalent of playing against a Six Nations team,” he said. “We’re playing away from home against some of the best individuals in club rugby in Europe just now,” he said. “There are quality players we see at Edinburgh, players winning championships for Leicester and Super Rugby for the Crusaders.
“Argentina have always had brilliant players, backlines and very tough forwards. They have a great crop just now.”
Hutchison’s first start since 2019
Hutchison is normally a centre and played his only start for Scotland there, scoring twice against Georgia in 2019. But Townsend has been discussing the possibility of 15 for some time.
“We want to give Rory opportunities and we see one at 15,” he said. “It’s been something we discussed with him and had chats with Chris Boyd, his club coach at Northampton, around Six Nations time.
“We see him as a second receiver, ball carrier and a very good kicker. He fits in with what we see from our full backs, and we know he can cover 10 too. Like all of our backs, we want Rory on the ball as much as possible.”
A ‘triple threat’
Blair Kinghorn continues at 10, and Townsend is excited to see more from the player who switched from the back three in the past season.
“Blair has had an outstanding season,” he added. “We felt he did well in Ireland.
“There were things he could have done better, but a lot of the play that he directed was as a confident player, whether through his kicking game, his passing , or running himself.
“He’s genuinely that triple threat, because he must be one of the best runners in the game playing in the back three. Now at 10 he can be a real threat there with ball in hand.”
Rory Hutchison (Northampton Saints); Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), Mark Bennett (Edinburgh), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors); Balir Kinghorn (Edinburgh), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors); Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh), George Turner (Glasgow Warriors), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors); Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh, captain), Johnny Gray (Exeter Chiefs); Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh), Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).
Replacements: Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks), Royr Sutherland (Worcester Warriors), Javan Sebastian (Scarlets), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs), Rory Darge (Glasgow Warriors), Ben White (London Irish), Ross Thompson (Glasgow Warriors), Sione Tuipolutu (Glasgow Warriors).