2018 Summer Tests: Scotland’s Tour of the Americas

Scotland take on Canada, the United States, and Argentina this summer, with a squad aimed primarily at developing younger players and building leadership depth behind senior internationalists who have been rested ahead of the 2019 World Cup. But with an under-strength side can a clean sweep of away victories be achieved?

Here we look at the match ups, the history, our computer’s predictions and the likely outcomes.

Computer Prediction

Our computer model gives Scotland the advantage in all three summer tour matches, predicting a high likelihood of victories against Canada and the United States but a much closer match against Argentina that could go either way.

[N.B These are predictions based on projections run pre-tour. Once the matches start and results come in, the predictions will likely change. We will update accordingly as the matches progress. Make sure you check back to see what’s changed!]

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The model works by looking at previous scoring patters in matches, both head to heads and generally, to work out an expected score for each team based on location and current ranking. For more information on how these calculations are made, see here, and for further predictions see here.

If you’d like to bet based on these predictions, please see here for our specific tips on using our predictions for betting.

Scotland

Scotland had a mixed bag of results in this year’s Six Nations, eventually finishing 3rd. A convincing Calcutta Cup victory over England for the first time in a decade was offset by unconvincing wins against France and Italy and a heavy defeat to Wales in the opening round.

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Announcing the summer touring squad Scotland Head Coach, Gregor Townsend, said:

“There are twin goals for this tour – the first is to build on the work we’ve done so far this season and finish with improved performances.

We also have the Rugby World Cup in our thoughts, as this will be our last tour before we leave for Japan next year. Touring and staying together for four weeks and experiencing different environments will be very informative.”

Townsend has voluntarily rested around 8 first choice Six Nations starters from the summer tour squad with another 3 on the injury list. Importantly, the combined omission of Scotland Captain John Barclay and Vice-Captains Greig Laidlaw and Ryan Wilson presents a leadership gap that will test his young touring side. A squad that has an average age of 25 and just two players aged over 30.

How are Scotland likely to fare in these matches with a weaker than normal squad and a run of recent poor away performances? And how big is the current gap between Scotland ranked 5th in the World and Canada, the United States and Argentina ranked 21st, 15th and 9th respectively?

 

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Canada

In his squad announcement Gregor Townsend noted that “Canada have an excellent record against Scotland, especially in Canada” this includes the most recent meeting in 2014 where Canada narrowly lost 17-19 in Toronto and a home victory for Canada in 2002.

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However, recent form suggests that Canadian fans should see a defeat by 10 points or less as a good result for their team. As can be seen below, Canada have fallen significantly over recent years, whilst Scotland have risen to create the largest ranking differential ever between these teams.

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United States

The last meeting between Scotland and the United States at the 2015 World Cup ended 39-16 in favor of Scotland. However, with the US losing narrowly 17-21 to Georgia in June 2017 and a 20-24 defeat to Italy in June 2016 means Scotland should be cautious of the Eagles. The hot and humid conditions of Houston should favour the home team.photo6046402264811285622

Additionally, the launch of Major League Rugby this year means many of the Eagles players will be regularly performing at a significantly higher standard than in previous seasons and are likely to carry additional match sharpness into the fixture.

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The US also recorded their first ever Grand Slam of the Americas Rugby Championship earlier in the year, cruising comfortably to victory in all of their matches. They will be keen to build on these results, and a win over a weaker, touring Scotland would be a big result for them.

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For the United States a win seems unlikely however if Scotland are restricted to a victory by less than 7 points this would represent a good outcome for Eagles fans.

Argentina

By far the biggest challenge in Scotland’s summer tour will be their match against Argentina in Resistencia.

Since the start of the professional era Argentina have edged head to heads against Scotland 7 games to 6 and our model suggests a tight game this time too, with a narrow 19-21 victory in favour of the Scots. Importantly, the uncertainty in this prediction is increased by Scotland’s choice of a weakened touring side which our model does not account for.

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Argentina’s world ranking has slipped in recent seasons from 5th in 2016 to their current standing of 9th. This follows a series of consecutive defeats to top tier nations since the start of the 2016/17 season registering only one victory (against Italy in 2017). This decline in form has been primarily attributed to the decision to block players overseas from being eligible for Los Pumas following the formation of the domestically based Jaguares Super Rugby side in 2015.

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With the Jaguares providing the vast majority of Argentine nation team players their form is therefore an important reference point. In this regard Scotland will meet an in-form side with the Jaguares notching up consecutive away victories in Australia and New Zealand to the Rebels, Brumbies, Blues and Chiefs in recent fixtures.

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Argentina will play two home summer tests against Wales prior to their clash with Scotland meaning the Pumas should be well prepared for the match intensity. By contrast Scotland’s matches with Canada and the US are unlikely to offer the same level of competitiveness. This factor, along with Scotland’s weakened touring side, means a victory for Scotland would be considered a well earned result.

If we had to stick our necks out, we’d say that the computer is likely to get this prediction wrong. At home, against a weaker Scotland (which our model doesn’t account for), we feel Argentina should prevail.

Conclusion

In recent seasons Scotland’s away form has been considered a major barrier to their continued progress up the world rankings and their ability to compete for the 6Nations title. Since 2016 Scotland have only beaten Australia, Italy, and Japan away from home.

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Predicted victories against Canada and the United States would provide only a small confidence boost to Scotland’s away record but conversely defeats would be heavy dents. Argentina will offer up a much sterner test.

An away win in Argentina is unlikely but would represent a major fillip for Scotland as they enter the World Cup countdown. The match-up is without doubt the crucial fixture upon which the success of the tour will be measured.

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