Six Nations 2018 Championship preview: Italy v Scotland

Italy and Scotland will commence Super Saturday 2018

Italy and Scotland will commence Super Saturday 2018

Super Saturday starts in Rome where Conor O’Shea’s side host Scotland at the Stadio Olimpico (kick-off 12.30pm).

When it comes to recent meetings, the visiting side have won four of the last five matches between the two teams in the Six Nations.

However Scotland are travelling to Italy with an away record that stands at just two wins in their last 19 Championship outings on the road.


Italy: LLLLL

For O’Shea’s side this campaign hasn’t delivered victories, and that remains a concern, however he is unearthing and handing vital experience to talented individuals.

Sebastian Negri on the charge against France
Sebastian Negri on the charge against France

Sebastian Negri, Matteo Minozzi and Mattia Bellini are three that have turned heads in the Championship and this weekend Gloucester Rugby’s Jake Polledri is poised to make his international debut.

Polledri, who is enjoying a standout season domestically, joined the Cherry and Whites from Hartpury RFC and will form part of the Azzurri’s back row alongside Negri and Sergio Parisse.

Scotland: WLWWL

Home victories and away losses compromise Scotland’s Six Nations to date and as a squad there will be an ambition to cap the tournament off with a comprehensive away victory.

The squad’s away trip to Cardiff was a tough day at the office however in Dublin, Townsend’s side created chances and will take more positives from the encounter. On the road this time, they must show a clinical and ruthless streak to deliver the result that they desire.

Last meeting

Scotland 29-0 Italy, March 18 2017

Last season Scotland met Italy the week after their 61-21 defeat by England and bounced back from that difficult afternoon with a bonus-point victory.

Tries from Finn Russell, Matt Scott, Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour meant that the Dark Blues finished their campaign with three wins for the first time since 2006.

Vern Cotter on a lap of the ground after his last game in charge of Scotland
Vern Cotter on a lap of the ground after his last game in charge of Scotland

It was an emotional day for Vern Cotter as he took charge of the national side for the final time at Murrayfield and his side’s ability to keep Italy scoreless showed their desire to finish his time on a high note.

Key Players

Italy – Matteo Minozzi. Italy’s full-back is making his mark on the international stage having scored three tries in four matches.

With the threats that Scotland house in their backline, Minozzi’s relationship in defence with Tommaso Benvenuti and Mattia Bellini will be key, alongside his ability going forwards.

Scotland – Willem Nel. After a neck injury aggravated in January it was initially thought that the prop would miss the whole of the Six Nations Championship.

Indeed the 31-year-old has had a difficult run of injuries, having also broken his arm against Samoa at the beginning of November.

This outing in Rome will be his first start in two years. When he is fully fit, the forward is as destructive as they come at the set piece and always puts in a strong shift around the park.

Pre-match thoughts

Tommaso Allan scoring a second-half try against Ireland
Tommaso Allan scoring a second-half try against Ireland

Ahead of the game O’Shea highlighted his side’s desire to deliver a result this weekend and focused on their continual development.

“This group has learned so much in this Six Nations. It’s possible for us to beat anyone, if only we can control what we want in the important moments of the match,” said O’Shea.

“It’s difficult because we want to win right away but I’m 100 per cent sure we’re on the right track. We have started a journey that will allow us to grow year after year, even after the World Cup.

We want to win against Scotland. We know that there are two or three key moments in a game, if we catch them, maybe we will win on Saturday.”

Scotland's Gregor Townsend has made five changes to his side's line-up
Scotland’s Gregor Townsend has made five changes to his side’s line-up

This week, Gregor Townsend gave his view about their opponents and discussed how he would feel after a win or a loss.

“If we were to lose we would be pretty disappointed, given the effort we have put in. To lose two in a row would be disappointing. Losing your last game is never enjoyable,” said Townsend.

“Winning would be progress. It would show the players have learned. But we know it will be tough as Italy are at home and have shown they can be very good in parts of the game. They will play with commitment and will stretch the play wide.”

Team news

Italy: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Marcello Violi, 1 Andrea Lovotti, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 3 Simone Ferrari, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Dean Budd, 6 Sebastian Negri, 7 Jake Polledri, 8 Sergio Parisse (c).

Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Tiziani Pasquali, 19 Abraham Steyn, 20 Giovanni Licata, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Jayden Hayward.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Nick Grigg, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 1 Gordon Reid, 2 Fraser Brown, 3 Willem Nel, 4 Tim Swinson, 5 Jonny Gray, 6 John Barclay (c), 7 Hamish Watson 8 Ryan Wilson.

Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Richie Gray, 20 David Denton, 21 Ali Price, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Blair Kinghorn.

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