All the big team news, key issues and TV details you need for the Six Nations match between Scotland and Italy in Edinburgh
Six Nations Scotland v Italy Preview
Scotland v Italy has thrown up some interesting ties in the past, with the Italians triumphing sevens times against the Scottish – most notably in the first-ever Six Nations game in 2000.
However, only twice have Italy won in Edinburgh and the last time was in 2015 (a two-point victory). The bookies are stacking odds against the Azzurri this time with the hosts at 1-33 to win. Such cavernous underestimation will surely spur the visitors on, and while they are yet to win a Six Nations match under Conor O’Shea, that bad run has to end eventually.
Related: Six Nations TV Coverage
Recently Italy have taken two steps forward, spun around, and wandered back to where they think they were before. In November they beat Georgia – a necessary act to relieve some pressure, with so many wanting the Eastern Europeans to have the chance to gain promotion to the championship and potentially relegate the Italians. Yet they were also beaten by Australia and hammered by New Zealand.
The Scots have decided to bank on the front-five power of a firing Edinburgh squad while throwing out some scintillating back-line talent and there are some notable debuts on offer. The Italians have made a few intriguing shifts of their own.
What’s the big team news?
Scotland have handed centre Sam Johnson his debut. The Australia-born back qualified for the team last year and is rewarded for his form with Glasgow Warriors.
Leicester hooker Jake Kerr and Newcastle flanker Gary Graham could make their debuts off the bench.
While the front five is a familiar, all-Edinburgh corps, the back row has an intriguing balance with Sam Skinner starting at blindside and Jamie Ritchie at openside. Ryan Wilson is at No 8.
Related: The Scotland squad
The Italians have handed a debut to former England U20 cap David Sisi, who features at lock alongside Treviso stalwart Dean Budd. Brahm Steyn moves to the flank to allow Sergio Parisse to return at No 8 and Angelo Esposito comes onto the wing. But on the other side of the park it is a surprise to see Michele Campagnaro – usually a centre – playing at 11.
What have the coaches said?
Scotland boss Gregor Townsend: “Italy have made life tough for Scotland in every Test match we’ve played. They will see it as a huge opportunity to start the tournament on a high and carry on the way they played against us in Rome last year.”
Conor O’Shea said of Campagnaro playing at 11: “We want to see Michele Campagnaro with the ball in his hands. We want him to have that kind of licence to get involved as much as he can off the wing. Just because you have a number on your back doesn’t mean you won’t see him in some of the start-up plays at outside-centre.”
Any interesting statistics?
- Hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini will win his 100th cap for Italy.
- Sergio Parisse will make a record 66th Six Nations appearance.
- When Italy last beat Scotland in the Six Nations, Scotland took two late yellow cards.
- Last time Scotland played Italy at home, Stuart Hogg kicked a penalty from around 48m.
- WP Nel’s win ratio in the Six Nations is exactly 50%.
- None of Scotland’s starting 15 scored a try in the last two Test matches Scotland have played.
What time does it kick off and is it on TV?
Scotland v Italy, Saturday 2 February, Murrayfield
This game kicks off at 2.15pm and will be live on BBC One, the show starting at 1.45pm, and BBC Radio 5 live as well as TV3 in Ireland.
England’s Luke Pearce is referee for this match. He is assisted by Mathieu Raynal, of France, and Japan’s Shuhei Kubo. Simon McDowell, of Ireland, is the TMO.
What are the line-ups?
SCOTLAND: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, Blair Kinghorn; Finn Russell, Greig Laidlaw; Allan Dell, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Sam Skinner, Jamie Ritchie, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Jake Kerr, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan, Gary Graham, Josh Strauss, Ali Price, Adam Hastings, Chris Harris.
ITALY: Jayden Hayward; Angelo Esposito, Luca Morisi, Tommaso Castello, Michele Campagnaro; Tommaso Allan, Tito Tebaldi; Andrea Lovotti, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Simone Ferrari, David Sisi, Dean Budd, Sebastian Negri, Braam Steyn, Sergio Parisse.
Replacements: Luca Bigi, Cherif Traore, Tiziano Pasquali, Jimmy Tuivaiti, Federico Ruzza, Guglielmo Palazzani, Ian McKinley, Edoardo Padovani.
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