Andy Robinson announced pretty much the team we had all suspected today, with Max Evans swapping in for the injured Lee Jones and a bit of reshuffle on the bench as one of the extra boys called up to training this week – in this case Jack Cuthbert – was swapped in to the utility back slot for Matt Scott who had filled in at the last minute last weekend.
It’s perhaps tough on Scott, but if he keeps his form up for Edinburgh there should be plenty more caps for him and I would expect him to tour in the summer; the same probably goes for Duncan Weir as both men will (barring injury) have to settle for a first cap, for now. No place for blog favourite Alex Grove despite a strong showing in the A Team game at the start of the campaign, and regularly crossing the line for Worcester. Hogg, De Luca and Blair have recovered from their knocks and I suspect they would fancy having a crack at the Italians if the conditions favour it.
The pack this tournament has had a consistency of selection that is pleasing (this lineup has been chosen for the last 3 games) while the backline has changed considerably from that which faced England many moons ago, and it is perhaps time for them all to reward Robinson with the win he needs to salvage something from this tournament.
Perhaps if the other games had gone better we’d have seen a more experimental flavour to this team but the days of nonchalance against Italy are long gone. These players got us into the hole and now they have a chance to pull themselves out of it a little way, before it’s all change and some new faces for the summer tour.
Scotland team to face Italy on Saturday: Stuart Hogg, Max Evans, Nick De Luca, Graeme Morrison, Sean Lamont, Greig Laidlaw, Mike Blair; Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, John Barclay, Ross Rennie, David Denton
Replacements: Scott Lawson, Euan Murray, Al Kellock, Richie Vernon, Chris Cusiter, Ruaridh Jackson, Jack Cuthbert
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland). Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland) and Pascal Gauzere (France). TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales).
For Italy, Jacques Brunel again makes wholesale changes from the side which lost to Wales. Fit again Martin Castrogiovanni returns at tighthead, Marco Bortolami comes into the second row, and Robert Barbieri is included at openside. In the backs Edoardo Gori resumes at scrum-half, Tomasso Benvenuti comes in at centre, and and Giovanbattista Venditti once more starts on the right-wing. Joshua Furno and Manoa Vosawai are named on the bench for the first time this campaign.
The selected team is the most experienced Italy team of all-time with a total of 787 caps with another 50 caps on the bench.
Italy Team: D’Apice, Masi, Venditti, Benvenuti, Canale, Mirco Bergamasco, Burton, Gori; Lo Cicero, Ghiraldini, Castrogiovanni, Geldenhuys, Bortolami, Zanni, Barbieri, Parisse (capt)
Replacements: Cittadini, Furno, Favaro, Vosawai, Botes, Toniolatti