Rugby Union: Scotland's lonely Test

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND'S RETURN to Murrayfield as Five Nations champions looks set to be greeted by empty stands against Argentina today. Barely 8,000 tickets have been sold for the World Cup warm-up match and although cash sales should ensure the overall crowd crawls above the 10,000 mark, that will still leave vast spaces inside the 67,500-capacity arena.

"It is disappointing that you get everybody wanting tickets for the Five Nations games but for the others you wonder where all the supporters have gone," said the Scotland captain Gary Armstrong. "It is very important that we get a decent crowd because it helps the team to play better.

"There are only two games left before the World Cup and we want to use these games to get the team going as much as possible. It would help if Murrayfield was full because it is easier to raise your game, but hopefully the ground will be full when we play South Africa."

The crowd is not likely to match the numbers who turned out to see Armstrong and his team-mates receive the Five Nations trophy on a Monday night last April and the apparent apathy is hardly what Scotland deserve.

The coach, Jim Telfer, confirmed that the stand-off Craig Chalmers has recovered from an eye injury and will take his place on the bench, allowing Duncan Hodge a chance to prove himself at half-back with Armstrong. Scotland will be without the Leslie brothers, John and Martin, and Gregor Townsend for what should be their stiffest test before they face South Africa on 3 October.

Argentina possess a robust pack and an agile scrum-half in Bristol's Agustin Pichot but it would be a major surprise if the Pumas landed a win.

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 (Glasgow Caledonians), P Walton (Newcastle), B Pountney (Northampton), S Reid (Narbonne). Replacements: S Longstaff (Glasgow Caledonians), C Chalmers (Glasgow Caledonians), B Redpath (Narbonne), G Simpson (Glasgow Caledonians), D Weir (Newcastle), G Graham (Newcastle), R Russell (Edinburgh Reivers).

ARGENTINA: M Contepomi (Newman); O Bartolucci (Atletico del Rosario), E Simone (Bristol), L Arbizu (Brive, capt), D Albanese (San Isidro); G Quesada (Hindu), A Pichot (Bristol); R Grau (Saracens), A Canalda (Newman), M Reggiardo (Castres); C Fernandez Lobbe (Liceo Naval), A Allub (Jockey Club, Rosario); R Martin (San Isidro), G Longo (San Isidro), L Ostiglia (Hindu). Replacements: N Fernandez Miranda (Hindu), F Contepomi (Newman), I Corletto (Buenos Aires University), S Phelan (CASI), R Perez (Duendes), O Hasan (Agen), F Diaz Alberdi (Buenos Aires University).

Referee: J Dume (France).