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Italy v Scotland - Teams and Prediction

ROUND FOUR PREVIEW: Scotland have an outside chance of claiming their first Six Nations title in a quarter of a century as they face improved Italy in Rome on Saturday.

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The Scots’ last championship triumph came in 1999, the last year of the old Five Nations before Italy joined the tournament.

They have not finished higher than third in the intervening 25 years but Gregor Townsend’s team go into this weekend’s clash in second place after showing that they are a match for anyone.

An agonising defeat to France in the second week despite being the better team for long stretches denied Scotland three wins from three.

As such, Scotland trail Ireland, who are at Twickenham on Saturday and are chasing the first double Grand Slam since France’s in 1998, by six points.

Should England beat Ireland the title will go down to a final-day decider at Lansdowne Road in Dublin later this month.

“We’re into the last two rounds of the championship still in the mix, although it’s an outside chance for the championship,” said Townsend.

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“There’s a lot to play for this weekend and again in Dublin.”

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Italy are looking for their first home win in 11 years after only being denied a last-gasp victory last time out, over France in Lille, due to Paolo Garbisi kicking a penalty off the post.

The Azzurri’s performances under new coach Gonzalo Quesada have merited more than the three points they have collected from their three matches.

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But Italy have failed to make those displays count and are bottom of the table, trying to avoid their ninth straight wooden spoon.

“Scotland are a very good team. They should still be in the hunt for the Grand Slam as they should have beaten France,” Quesada told reporters.

“They will obviously come here for a bonus-point win as they know that they can still win the title if they win their final two matches.

“It will be difficult but my team surprises me every day in training. They’ve worked very hard this week, they’re motivated and know that if they play as well as they can they could make a whole country very proud.”

Louis Lynagh, the son of Australia rugby great Michael Lynagh, will make his international rugby debut on Saturday after opting to play for the country of his birth.

Lynagh, 23, was born in Treviso where his father played and his mother is Italian, but he moved to England when he was four years old.

Last month Lynagh decided to return to Italy by switching from Harlequins for United Rugby Championship team Benetton.

He signed a two-year deal, with the option to extend the agreement until 2027, and will arrive ahead of the 2024/25 season.

Lynagh will play on the right wing as star man Ange Capuozzo starts at fullback and Monty Ioane on the left.

Players to watch

For Italy: A lot of the spotlight will be on Louis Lynagh, the son of Australia rugby great Michael Lynagh. He will make his senior international debut and will play on the wing. Fullback Ange Capuozzo is Italy’s most dangerous player and if given enough space, he could cause chaos in Scotland’s defence. Captain Michele Lamaro can be a beast with ball in hand. His skills at the breakdown will also be needed in what could be a very close encounter. Italy will also need their tight forwards to come to the party and lock Niccolo Cannon has some muscle to get his side over the gainline.

For Scotland: Scrumhalf George Horne makes his first Test start since the 2019 World Cup and it will be interesting to see his combination with flyhalf and captain Finn Russell. In the midfield, Cameron Redpath gets a chance to impress in that crucial No.12 channel as he replaces the injured Sione Tuipulotu. Big wing Duhan van der Merwe terrorised England with three tries last time out and Scotland will be looking to give him plenty of ball, especially against newcomer Louis Lynagh. In the pack, flank and captain Rory Darge will be looking to impose himself in the physical exchanges once again.

Head to Head

Prediction

@rugby365com: Scotland by three points.

Teams:

Italy: 15 Ange Capuozzo, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Menoncello, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Martin Page-Relo, 8 Ross Vintcent, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolo Cannon, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosue Zilocchi, 19 Andrea Zambonin, 20 Lorenzo Cannone, 21 Stephen Varney, 22 Leonardo Marin, 23 Federico Mori.

Scotland: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell (captain), 9 George Horne, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Rory Darge (captain), 6 Andy Christie, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 George Turners, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Elliot Millar-Mills, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Jamie Ritchie, 21 Matt Fagerson, 22 Ali Price, 23 Kyle Row.

Date: Saturday, March 9
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 15.15 (14.15 UK & Ireland time; 14.15 GMT)
Expected weather: Cloudy with some rain early in the day with a high of 16°C.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England), Adam Leal (England)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

AFP & @rugby365com

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