Scotland v Italy, 6 Nations 2017: Match preview part 2 – Head to Heads

KO 12.30 at Murrayfield Stadium, Saturday 18th March
Live on BBC 1

For Part 1 of the match preview – Scouting Report click here.

This match should come as a relief to players and fans – in fact everyone involved in Scottish rugby – as it gives an immediate opportunity to banish some of the memories of the Twickenham Trauma and end the Six Nations window on a happier note. There will be no room for complacency though – as ever Italy will be targeting this game as a chance for a rare win. The Italians will be awkward and belligerent and Scotland need the precision and ruthlessness shown in their last 2 home games if they want to keep alive hopes of a best ever Six Nations finish.

  • Scotland have never won 3 home games in a single Championship season.
  • Victory over Italy would mean a fourth consecutive Six Nations win at Murrayfield – after suffering a sequence of 7 losses at the same venue in the tournament immediately prior to this run.
  • The Scots have the chance to win 5 home matches in a row for the first time since 1991.

Starting XV stats:

Average age – SCO 26.5   ITA 27.4
Test caps – SCO 455   ITA 531
6 Nations appearances – SCO 220   ITA 254
Pack weights – SCO 891kg   ITA 896kg

15 Stuart Hogg
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Huw Jones
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Tim Visser
10 Finn Russell
9 Ali Price
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
15 Edoardo Padovani
14 Angelo Esposito
13 T. Benvenuti
12 Luke McLean
11 G. Venditti
10 Carlo Canna
9 Edoardo Gori

1 Gordon Reid
2 Ross Ford
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Grant Gilchrist
5 Jonny Gray
6 John Barclay (c)
7 Hamish Watson
8 Ryan Wilson

ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy

1 Andrea Lovotti
2 Ornel Gega
3 Lorenzo Cittadini
4 Marco Fuser
5 George Biagi
6 Maxime Mbanda
7 Braam Steyn
8 Sergio Parisse

16 Fraser Brown
17 Allan Dell
18 Simon Berghan
19 Tim Swinson
20 Cornell Du Preez
21 Henry Pyrgos
22 Duncan Weir
23 Matt Scott

ADV Italy
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland

16 Leonardo Ghiraldini
17 Sami Panico
18 Dario Chistolini
19 Dries van Schalkwyk
20 Federico Ruzza
21 Francesco Minto
22 Marcello Violi
23 Luca Sperandio

Backs – advantage Scotland
Man for man the Scottish backline is far stronger on paper than their opponents – but previous games against Italy have demonstrated that they can find the inspiration (and destructiveness) to give no time and space to supposedly better sides. The Scots will need to work hard to make their apparent domninance count.
Forwards – advantage Scotland
Again the Scots look like they edge the head to heads but the packs will be set up to play different games (quick ball v power). The real victory in this battle will depend on which of the 2 units can impose their style of play on the other.
Subs – advantage Scotland
The Scotland bench has looked better in the Championship when Vern Cotter has been able to pick and choose when to make substitutions. It’s also noticeable though that in those situations the taciturn tactician has opted not to use some of his reserves at all – which doesn’t suggest a great deal of confidence in the backups…

Previous results
This will be the 9th time the sides have met at Murrayfield in the Six Nations with the head to head looking looking like this:

W W W L  W W W L

Most recent meeting in Edinburgh (please note these ‘highlights’ come with a government health warning for Scottish fans…)

Scotland 19-22 Italy

18 players return from that fixture – 9 for the visitors and 9 for the home side. Ross Ford and Jonny Gray are the only Scottish forwards to start both matches – well technically it’s 3 given that George Biagi could pedantically be described as a forward who is Scottish! The man born in Irvine joins Sergio Parisse as the only members of the Italian pack who started the 2 sides’ last meeting at Murrayfield.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

M. Gauzere gets his annual encounter with Scotland after matches against the USA (2014 – a win) and Ireland (2015 and 2016 – both losses). The Scots have won one, drawn one and lost one on the penalty count in those previous encounters. After last week’s struggles at the breakdown versus England the worry for Vern Cotter and his coaching staff has to be that they had many of the same issues in the final match of last season’s Championship in Dublin. M. Gauzere was quick to penalise John Barclay and co. when they were contesting the ruck – Captain Scarlet will need to ensure the whole team are very precise when they try and go after the ball on Saturday.

Picture courtesy of the excellent Adrian Henry for Rugby People – well worth a click!

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