'We thought highly of him then and we think very highly of him now'
The 25-year-old will skipper a team that includes experienced internationals like George Horne, Jamie Bhatti, Scott Cummings and Matt Fagerson as well as uncapped trio Ben Muncaster, Ollie Smith and Matt Currie.
Scarlets’ Javan Sebastian is the only player not with Edinburgh and Glasgow who will feature for the Scots this weekend, with the Gallagher Premiership players unavailable until the following week’s match against Argentina.
“Luke’s a leader by example in the way he trains and the way he plays,” said Scotland head coach Townsend, explaining why he handed the Edinburgh man the captaincy. “He’s very proud to represent Scotland and he’s had captaincy experience at Edinburgh.
“A year ago he was due to be captain in our A game against England which got cancelled. We thought highly of him then and we think very highly of him now. He missed the Six Nations through injury but he’s bounced back well. I thought he was one of the form players towards the end of the season.”
Saturday’s game kicks off a South America tour that will see the senior Scotland team tackling Argentina in a three-Test series next month.
Chile will use the match as preparation for their two-legged World Cup play-off against the United States in July.
“I expect a high standard, a standard that has got Chile very close to being a World Cup team,” said Townsend. “They have played Russia and Canada and beaten them on their way to the play-off game against USA.
“They have a lot of players involved in the South American professional championship. They’ll be strong in the scrum and the set-piece, very physical and aggressive.”
Scotland arrived in Santiago on Monday and Townsend is pleased with how they have settled.
“We’ve not really ventured out our hotel since we got here,” he said. “Today (Thursday) is a day off. The players were out to golf, led by Zander Fagerson. There will be others going out for coffee.
“Really, the training field and the swimming pool is all we’ve seen. We had a nice visit to the UK ambassador last night (Wednesday) and we heard about the Scottish links to Chile and the Chile team were there as well. It was good to interact with others.
“It’s a great city, Santiago. I’ve never been here before but you’ve got the Andes in the background. We trained at a school yesterday and thousands of kids came out to watch us train and get autographs off the players, so we’re feeling very welcome and privileged to be back on tour again.”
Townsend welcomed the news that Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson has extended his contract until 2025
“Mark’s been a big supporter of the national team and also the professional teams, and I’ve experienced both of those roles with Glasgow and Scotland,” he said.
“He’s a big believer that if the pro teams and national teams have success, that trickles down to other areas of Scottish rugby. He’s been a big catalyst for that change of mindset over the last 10 years. I’ve got a good relationship with Mark. We don’t always agree but we respect each other’s views. He wants success for all our teams and he’ll be driving that I’m sure for the next few years.”
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