Vern Cotter has named his final Scotland squad.
All round it’s probably not what he had in mind as an end but targeting 3 home wins would represent a satisfying tournament.
A number of injury worries and poor performances from the devastation against England seem to have been miraculously consigned to the past with just one change to the starting lineup and one to the bench.
Up front, the pack probably escaped lightest with Richie Gray’s hamstring the main injury worry aside from a Ryan Wilson head knock. Both come through for an unchanged back 5 but up front Fraser Brown swaps with Ross Ford at hooker, possibly as punishment for the tackle that sent it all wrong and also the requirement for Brown to miss a day’s training for a hearing in London.
Completing the return to play protocols are Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour, who reform the same back division with Tim Visser. Finn Russell has overcome minor knee trouble to partner Ali Price once more.
On the bench Matt Scott is chosen ahead of Sean Maitland for the 23 spot. His fellow centres Huw Jones and Alex Dunbar probably had the biggest drop in their stock at Twickenham; expect a response.
Almost no-one suspected the whole team would be fit, so it’s something of a miracle and the Scotland medical team should be applauded. It’s great to have the nearly top team available and there will be a number of objectives. Firstly they need to prove they can keep the head in emotional circumstances – still the need to prove a point as it was last time, but from a different direction – and then they need to prove they don’t revolve around Stuart Hogg.
The back row, in particular, will want to show they are indeed masters of the breakdown and adaptable to whatever the referee throws at them. Before you get too excited, it’s another Frenchman that Scotland have had difficulty with in the past: Pascal Gauzere. Gauzere was the ref who both Laidlaw and Barclay struggled with against Ireland last year (see post by our Ed Rory here).
Now they need to seek redemption and a good send off for Vern.
Scotland team to face Italy at BT Murrayfield:
Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Tim Visser, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, Ross Ford, Zander Fagerson, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, John Barclay (capt), Hamish Watson, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: Fraser Brown, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Tim Swinson, Cornell du Preez, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Matt Scott.
Italy: E Padovani (Zebre), A Esposito (Treviso), T Benvenuti (Treviso), L McLean (Treviso), G Venditti (Zebre), C Canna (Zebre), E Gori (Treviso); A Lovotti (Zebre), O Gega (Treviso), L Cittadini (Bayonne), M Fuser (Treviso), G Biagi (Zebre), M Mbanda (Zebre), A Steyn (Treviso), S Parisse (Stade Francais, capt).
Replacements: L Ghiraldini (Toulouse), S Panico (Calvisano), D Chistolini (Zebre), D van Schalkwyk (Zebre), F Ruzza (Zebre), F Minto (Treviso), M Violi (Zebre), L Sperandio (Treviso).