Preview: Scotland v Italy

Fri, 21 Jun 2013 07:09
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Scotland aim to build on a brave show against hosts South Africa when they meet Italy Saturday for third place in the Inbound Series.

Scotland aim to build on a brave show against hosts South Africa when they meet Italy Saturday for third place in the Inbound Series.

It took the Springboks the full 80 minutes to clinch a flattering 30-17 win in Nelspruit over opponents displaying far greater spirit than in a timid 27-17 surrender to Samoa the previous weekend.

The Scots collected no points from two rounds of mini-league action ahead of the classification matches at Loftus Versfeld stadium, and Italy fared worse with no points either and much heavier beatings.

A good first 20 minutes of the second-half could not prevent Italy slumping 44-10 to South Africa in Durban and they conceded a further five tries when going down 39-10 against Samoa.

Australia-born Scotland interim coach Scott Johnson, whose team selections have twice been delayed 48 hours because of huge casualty lists, wants more of the fire that rattled two-time world champions South Africa.

"I was encouraged by our performance against the Springboks last weekend, but having set that standard we have to ensure that we build upwards from it against Italy.

"This Test marks the end of a long season for both northern hemisphere teams in the tournament and we want no rocks under our beach towels after the Italy game.

"When we gathered in camp last month I said this tour would be about broadening our base and discovering whether certain players were ready to play international rugby.

"That has happened and we will take a lot from the tournament, but we also want to end the tour on a high against an Italian team we know well and respect greatly," said Johnson.

It will be the second time the countries meet within five months with Scotland 34-10 winners of a Six Nations championship match at Murrayfield - their second biggest victory margin in a 20-Test rivalry.

Only five Scots and five Italians survive from the Edinburgh starting line-ups, when the home team ran in four tries and scrum-half Greig Laidlaw was voted man of the match.

Left wing Sean Lamont, inside centre Matt Scott, Laidlaw, tight head prop Euan Murray and No.8 Johnnie Beattie remain in a Scottish side hit by an injury plague and British and Irish Lions call-ups.

The five Italians are full-back Andrea Masi, left-wing Giovanbattista Venditti, South Africa-born scrumhalf Tobias Botes, tight head prop Martin Castrogiovanni and outstanding No.8 and captain Sergio Parisse.

Jacques Brunel has rung the changes - seven against South Africa, seven against Samoa, 10 against Scotland - without success so far and the France-born coach seems particularly unsure who his best scrumhalf and flyhalf partnership is.

He paired Alberto Di Bernardo and Edoardo Gori against the Springboks, Luciano Orquero and Gori against the Samoans, and now it is the turn of Di Bernardo and Botes to prove their worth.

Players to watch:

For Scotland: The Scottish centres were very impressive against the Springboks last week and they will be dangerous on attack and solid on defence. Alasdair Strokosch was playing on the verge last weekend and if he can repeat that this weekend he will be a handful for the Italiains. David Denton gets his first start of the the tour and if he can provide the Scots with go-forward ball they will be difficult to stop.

For Italy: Sergio Parisse is always the player to watch. The Talismanic leader needs to be on top form if the Italians are going provide resistance. Tobias Botes gets a first start and will hope to provide the backline with crisp ball and boss the game behind his pack. Martin Castrogiovanni will alwayas be the rock of the Italian scrum and if he can gain the ascendancy then the Italians will have a chance.

Head to head: Parisse against Beattie will be the big match-up of the day. Beattie had a solid game against the Boks and will be looking to out-play his more fancied opponent. Masi and Murchie is another important head-to-head. Whichever fullback can provide strength on attack and is solid at the back will ease a lot of pressure on the rest of the side.

Previous results:
2013: Scotland won 34-10, Edinburgh
2012: Italy won 13-6, Rome
2011: Scotland won 23-12, Edinburgh
2011: Scotland won 21-8,Edinburgh
2010: Italy won 16-12, Rome
2009: Scotland won 26-6, Edinburgh
2008: Italy won 23-20, Rome
2007: Scotland won 18-16, St Etienne
2007: Italy won 37-17, Edinburgh
2006: Scotland won 13-10, Rome

Prediction: Italy have been poor throughout the series and Scotland impressed last week. Scott Johnson is a very astute coach and will know where to attack the Italians. Having beaten them this year already I think Scotland will win by at least 15 points.

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Alasdair Strokosch, 6 David Denton, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Moray Low, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Robert Harley, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Tim Visser.

Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Sergio Parisse (captain), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Leandro Cedaro, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Alessandro Zanni, 21 Alberto Chillon, 22 Gonzalo Canale, 23 Luke McLean.

Date: Saturday, June 22
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 14.15 (12.15 GMT)
Expected weather: Some great weather predicted for Pretoria, no rain and a maximum temperature of 23°C but a low of 4°C.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)

AFP & Rugby 365