Rugby Union: Pumas maul Scottish plans for cup build-up

Scotland 22 Argentina 31
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JAMES MCLAREN fears his chance of a World Cup place may have gone after Scotland's dismal defeat by Argentina at Murrayfield.

McLaren was called into the inside centre slot vacated by the absent John Leslie to make his debut on Saturday but, like the rest of his team- mates, struggled as the Pumas recorded their first victory on British soil. The former Canberra rugby league player enjoyed one solitary burst down the middle before he was halted by the sturdy Argentine defence, and he left the stadium nursing a sore ankle.

"It is definitely a chance missed,"said the 17-stone centre. "I am really disappointed because I like to get involved in the action, and it didn't happen."

The 27-year-old Bourgoin player will learn his World Cup fate today when the coach, Jim Telfer, names his squad, in which he will include three scrum-halves and three hookers. McLaren said: "That means a couple of positions are going to miss out in terms of back-up, and centre could be one of them. I can't be too confident."

In what turned out to be a collective nightmare, even the normally composed figure of Glenn Metcalfe failed to shine. The New Zealand-born full-back did open his try-scoring account for Scotland five minutes from time but he was as guilty of slack play as the rest of his team-mates. "Nothing went right for us, and we made far too many mistakes," he said. "We were in trouble right from the start."

With only Saturday's match against Romania at Hampden Park, and two scheduled games against the Super Districts in September, Scotland have little time to recapture the form that took them to the Five Nations title last season.

Telfer has already suggested he may try and fit in another couple of friendlies to increase match sharpness, but he also faces other problems, not least the wayward goalkicking of Kenny Logan. The Wasps winger was successful in only three of his five kicks.

The Scotland coach insists that a month of intense training will enable the Scottish pack to regroup, but they were outgunned by an Argentina side who showed they are capable of more than just brutal forward play. In scrum-half Agustin Pichot they have a man capable of sneaking through the narrowest of gaps, and wingers Diego Albanese and Octavio Bartolucci both grabbed tries to cap excellent individual displays.

Scotland: Tries Metcalfe, Tait, Walton. Conversions Logan 2. Penalty Logan. Argentina Tries Bartolucci 2, Albanese. Conversions Quesada 2. Penalties Quesada 3. Drop Goal Quesada.

SCOTLAND: G Metcalfe (Glasgow Caledonians); C Murray (Edinburgh Reivers), A Tait (Edinburgh Reivers), J McLaren (Bourgoin-Jallieu), K Logan (Wasps); D Hodge (Edinburgh Reivers), G Armstrong (Newcastle, capt); T Smith (Glasgow Caledonians), G Bulloch (Glasgow Caledonians), P Burnell (Montferrand), S Murray (Saracens), S Grimes (Newcastle), P Walton (Newcastle), S Reid (Narbonne), B Pountney (Northampton). Replacements: S Longstaff (Glasgow Caledonians) for C Murray, 59; C Chalmers (Glasgow Caledonians) for McLaren, 78; G Simpson (Glasgow Caledonians) for Walton, 61; D Weir (Newcastle) for Grimes, 68; G Graham (Newcastle) for Burnell, 52.

ARGENTINA: M Contempomi (Buenos Aires); O Bartolucci (Rosario), E Simone (Bristol), L Arbizu (Brive, capt), D Albanese (Buenos Aires); G Quesada (Buenos Aires), A Pichot (Bristol); R Grau (Saracens), A Canalda (Buenos Aires), M Reggiardo (Castres), C Lobbe (Buenos Aires), A Allub (Rosario), R Martin (Buenos Aires), G Longo (Buenos Aires), L Ostiglia (Buenos Aires). Replacements: O Hasan (Agen) for Reggiardo, 41; S Phelan (CAS) for Martin, 54; F Contempomi (Newman) for Simone, 66.

Referee: J Dume (France).