Italy v Scotland preview

Italy and Scotland face off in Rome in the Six Nations on Saturday with both teams aiming to avoid the wooden spoon. This is the fifth consecutive year and eighth overall that Italy and Scotland have finished as the bottom two teams in the Six Nations.

Scotland are favourites to claim their first victory of the campaign, but the Scots have a surprisingly bad record in Rome.

Scotland have lost a tournament high five times to Italy since the Azzurri joined the Six Nations in 2000, while the Scots have only won twice in Rome with their last victory on Italian soil coming in 2006.

Italy have won three of the last five Six Nations encounters between the sides and will be confident of another upset.

The Azzurri will be hoping they can rebound after two poor performances against Ireland and Wales. Italy began their campaign with a gutsy 30-12 loss to a disjointed France team, while Jacques Brunel’s team were in position to beat England before a second half comeback by Stuart Lancaster’s charges.

The past two weeks have seen Italy produce two disappointing performances, however. Ireland scored five tries en-route to a 42-10 success, while Wales cruised to a comfortable 24-3 victory.

Scotland have been competitive in most of their matches but difficulties scoring have led to four losses.

Andy Robinson’s side, like Italy, led against England at half-time, but the Scots lost a tight match 13-6. Scotland were less impressive against Wales, when a late Greig Laidlaw try was a mere conciliation as the Scots lost 27-13.

Scotland’s best performance came against France, when Robinson’s charges led 17-13 halfway through the second half. A try from Maxime Medard and a late drop goal Lionel Beauxis helped Les Bleus to a six point victory. The Scots then lost 32-14 to Ireland last week as Declan Kidney’s team ran in four tries.

Jacques Brunel has made six changes to his starting line-up ahead of Saturday’s clash. Martin Castrogiovanni replaces Lorenzo Cittadini at prop, while Marco Bortolami starts at lock in place of Cornelius Van Zyl. Robert Barbieri takes Simone Favaro’s position at flanker.

Edoardo Gori starts at scrum-half in place of Fabio Semenzato. Giovanbattista Venditti takes Luke McLean’s place on the wing, with Tommaso Benvenuti starting at centre instead of Alberto Sgarbi.

Scotland’s only change sees centre Nick De Luca replaces wing Lee Jones, who suffered a severe concussion against Ireland. Max Evans will take Jones’ place on the wing.

Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Gonzalo Canale, 11 Mirco Bergamasco, 10 Kris Burton, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.

Replacements: 16 Tommaso D’Apice, 17 Lorenzo Cittadini, 18 Joshua Furno, 19 Simone Favaro, 20 Manoa Vosawai, 21 Tobias Botes, 22 Giulio Toniolatti.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Max Evans, 13 Nick de Luca, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Mike Blair, 8 David Denton, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Ross Ford (captain), 1 Allan Jacobsen.

Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Euan Murray, 18 Alastair Kellock, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Ruaridh Jackson, 22 Jack Cuthbert.


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