Everything you need to know about the face-off in Florence
Autumn Nations Cup Italy v Scotland Preview
Italy v Scotland in the Autumn Nations Cup: A new competition, a familiar fixture, a venue the Scots don’t know, on a streaming service embracing elite rugby union for the first time.
But the Scots’ tails are up after finally getting a significant win in Wales. Now with this new Test tournament coming centre stage, there are some possible permutations to consider.
The Azzurri welcome Scotland to Italy for the 14th time, looking to draw matches their at seven wins apiece – and with this match in Florence, where Italy have beaten Georgia and the Springboks in recent years and where Scotland have never played, Italy will hope to spring a surprise on the visitors.
With injuries to their two frontline fly-halves, Finn Russell and Adam Hastings, Scotland call upon Duncan Weir, though. You may remember him dropping a goal against Italy in 2014 to snatch a last-gasp win by a point. The Worcester ten is back for his first start since 2016.
Opposite him is 20-year-old ten Paolo Garbisi, who’s only making his third ever Test appearance. His last outing was about as gentle as an avalanche with the white crush of an England team hunting a Six Nations title last week. But the week before – on debut – he scored 12 points and got an intercept try against an Ireland side who took their eye off the ball.
Scotland should carry a greater threat at the back with quicksilver captain Stuart Hogg and his workaholic wingers (though Hogg’s opposite man, Matteo Minozzi is no slouch either).
But really the attention-grabber will be the back-row battle. Scotland’s Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson are in devilish form right now while Italy’s Jake Polledri has the same energy as a bull in a grenade factory. Flying in at his side will be Seb Negri and Braam Steyn – hardly shy and retiring.
Scotland are of course favourites. We will see which pack enjoys the favour of the all-English team of match officials.
Related: Autumn Nations Cup referees
What’s the big team news?
For the hosts, Calvisano wing Jacopo Trulla comes in for his debut. And there could be another for Gloucester’s Stephen Varney from the bench too. Their friend Garbisi has clearly blazed a trail – the fly-half got his first start against England at the end of the Six Nations and looks set to be allowed to grow on the Test stage.
In the December issue of Rugby World, lock Niccolo Cannone considered the prospect of playing in his home town of Florence, saying: To play in your home city for your country is an absolute dream.” Well it comes true this weekend.
Meanwhile, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend makes four changes from the Six Nations win in Wales – with the return of Duncan Weir the headline.
Stuart McInally replaces Fraser Brown at hooker, with the latter hurting himself in training. A replacement last week, George Horne was also hurt in training, and so Exeter’s Sam Hidalgo-Clyne comes onto the bench for his first involvement since 2018.
Centre Sam Johnson and wing Duhan van der Merwe both start, with James Lang and Blair Kinghorn dropping to the bench.
Any interesting statistics?
- 20 seconds – the amount of time left on the match clock when Duncan Weird slotted a drop-goal to beat Italy 21-20 in Rome in 2014.
- The last time Italy played in Florence they won by 11 points – beating Georgia 28-17. They also beat South Africa there in 2016, by 20-18.
- Scotland have won the last eight meetings between these two.
- Italy No 8 Jake Polledri beat five defenders against England in the last round of the Six Nations.
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Italy v Scotland, Saturday 14 November, Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence.
The match kicks off at 12.45 and will be broadcast live on Amazon Prime. There is also live match commentary on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio 5 live.
If you’re outside the UK and Ireland, check out our guide to Autumn Nations Cup coverage around the world.
Referee Luke Pearce heads up an all-English officiating team, with Karl Dickson and Christophe Ridley his assistant, and veteran official Wayne Barnes the TMO.
What are the line-ups?
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (captain); Darcy Graham, Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Duncan Weir, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Johnny Gray, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Blade Thomson.
Replacements: George Turner, Oli Kebble, WP Nel, Sam Skinner, Nick Haining, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, James Lang, Blair Kinghorn.
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