Scotland v Italy, Summer Tests 2017 – match preview

KO 1.00 pm at Singapore National Stadium, Saturday 10th June
Live on BBC 1 Scotland

84 days after Scotland said “arrivederci” to Vern Cotter with a match against Italy they say “buongiorno” to new head coach Gregor Townsend with a match against…Italy. Toony will be hoping that his first hit out against the Azzuri finishes more like that last game for Stern Vern rather than the big Kiwi’s own debut against the Italians – a fixture from the 2015 Six Nations that OTOTM has tried (but failed) to cleanse from the memory banks…

Starting XV stats:

Average age – SCO 26.3   ITA 24.8
Test caps – SCO 144   ITA 174
Tries – SCO 29   ITA 25

Average age – SCO 29.4   ITA 27.7
Test caps – SCO 246   ITA 118
Pack weights – SCO 888kg   ITA 877kg

15 Duncan Taylor
14 Damien Hoyland
13 Matt Scott
12 Alex Dunbar
11 Tim Visser
10 Finn Russell
9 Ali Price
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
15 Edoardo Padovani
14 Angelo Esposito
13 Michele Campagnaro
12 Tommaso Boni
11 Leonardo Sarto
10 Tommaso Allan
9 Edoardo Gori (c)

1 Allan Dell
2 Ross Ford
3 WP Nel
4 Tim Swinson
5 Ben Toolis
6 John Barclay (c)
7 John Hardie
8 Josh Strauss

ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland

1 Andrea Lovotti
2 Luca Bigi
3 Simone Ferrari
4 Maco Fuser
5 Dean Budd
6 Franceso Minto
7 Maxime Mbanda
8 Robert Barbieri

16 Fraser Brown
17 Gordon Reid
18 Zander Fagerson
19 Rob Harley
20 Magnus Bradbury
21 Ryan Wilson
22 Henry Pyrgos
23 Peter Horne

ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland

16 Ornel Gega
17 Pietro Ceccarelli
18 Federico Zani
19 Dries van Schalkwyk
20 Braam Steyn
21 Marcello Violi
22 Carlo Canna
23 Tommaso Benvenuti

Backs – even
In a bit of a change from the usual pattern of these games while the Scots may have an overall advantage man-for-man, most of it arises in the pack with the backlines fairly evenly matched. That’s in large part due to Scotland missing a few to the Lions and injury and Italy’s only real x-factor players – Michele Campagnaro and Leonardo Sarto – both being backs (they are also the only 2 in the Italian matchday 23 who don’t play for Treviso or Zebre).

Forwards – advantage Scotland
The Italian eight is a very raw group and while Scotland may not be entirely at full strength they will expect to outwork their opponents at the breakdown and have (at a minimum) a very stable platform to work off from setpiece play.

Subs – advantage Scotland
The Glasgow front row will probably join the fray as a unit and Gregor Townsend can call on the steadying hand of Henry Pyrgos to control the game late on if necessary. Italy’s main option will be the talented, but flaky, Carlo Canna.

Previous results
Scotland and Italy have twice met at a neutral venue with the Scots victorious by 2 points in St. Etienne in 2007 and by 1 point in Pretoria in 2013. Time to prepare for another nail-biter? Recent history also favours Scotland – last 5 matches:


Neither side has played since they met in the Six Nations at Murrayfield in March – a match which ultimately ended as a comfortable win for the home team:

Scotland 29 – 0 Italy

Only 6 of the Scottish side that started the game 3 months ago will also be in the XV that kicks off Saturday’s match. Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour are on Lions duty. Huw Jones and Grant Gilchrist are injured. Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson and Ryan Wilson have been benched. Hamish Watson and Jonny Gray are touring but have been rested for this match.

The Italians also only have 6 starters returning from that previous game. Overall 23 of the 46 players who featured in Edinburgh will not be part of proceedings in Singapore

Significant stats:

Successful kicks at goal by Italy. Across their 2 away games in the Six Nations the Italians’ frontline place kickers (Allan and Canna) failed with 7 of their 8 shots at the posts. It’s entirely possible Edoardo Gori may turn down all but the most straightforward kicks and instead go for the corner to use his side’s driving maul.

Mauls attempted by Italy. It was a mixed day for Scotland in terms of stopping the Italian drive. On one hand they prevented the Azzuri from breaching the try line but on the other they conceded at least 4 penalties at mauls, including a yellow card for John Barclay. The best defence? Don’t let Italy get a foothold in the Scotland 22.

Clean breaks by Scotland. For all that it was a comfortable win in the end it fell more into the workmanlike category than any other. Scotland dominated possession and forced Italy to make a huge number of tackles – 170. There was a lack of penetration though and the visitors only missed 14 of those tackles and frustrated the Scottish attack at times. The Italian defenders are certainly vulnerable out wide but it will take accurate play by Scotland to expose this.

Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Minoru Fuji (Japan)

The World Rugby website is not terribly helpful but OTOTM’s research suggest that this will be Mr. Williams first ever Test match as the man in the middle. At 32 he will be younger than some of the players. He has refereed 2 seasons at Super Rugby level along with some experience on the HSBC 7s Series. This time last year he was officiating in the under 20s Championship in Manchester.

As a former scrum half himself, Mr. Williams may be more tolerant than other (normal) people when it comes to the constant yapping from Ali Price and Edoardo Gori. Fun fact – Mr. W is the first ever full-time professional referee from the Taranaki province…

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

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