Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Scotland v Italy: 5 Things To Look Out For

But Scotland couldn't hold the All Blacks out.

After two weeks of recriminations, heated debate and Jiffy bashing there’s finally an international rugby match to focus on. Much has been made about Italy’s current standing in the World Rankings and there have been comments here suggesting Scotland will have an easy time of it on Saturday. The optimism was only heightened when it was announced that the mighty Castro would not play because a dog had bitten his nose (Castro’s Nose is a great band name by the way – feel free to use it).

Anyone who watched Italy against England will know that the score didn’t tell the whole story of the match. Watching the game and looking at the stats it is clear that Italy posed a real threat and it’s not every day that a team puts three tries past an England team at Twickenham.

Scotland have yet to win but unlike previous tournaments there is an acceptance amongst the non-Scots press that this not down to any lack of effort or skill on show. Merely being able to compete with Wales and France is a progress of sorts. However in terms of recent form and World Rankings this is a game Scotland should win.

1. He’s Horney, Horney, Horney

Cotter’s selection of Horne ahead of Tonks seemed to take most by surprise with the versatile Warrior having played at the weekend. However his man of the match performance as well as his familiarity with those outside him seems to have played large in big Vern’s thinking. Horne’s selection also allows Cotter to continue with the organised chaos tactics he has so far employed. Horne is used to playing a high tempo offloading game with Glasgow where Townsend gives players the same freedom as Cotter to play the game in front of them rather than sticking to a defined game plan.

Italy look disorganised in defence and attack with a number of players seemingly unsure where they should be. This can be difficult to defend against but it also means gaps will present themselves in defence and attack and giving a player like Horne the ability to make on-pitch decisions will give Scotland the best chance of taking full advantage.

2. Walk the line

We’ve talked about Scotland’s resurgent line out in the previous weeks but the forwards have yet to capitalise on this in the way they did in the Autumn Tests. Italy lost three out of seven line outs on their own put in against England. It would be remiss not to stick the ball in the corner and put the Italian’s under some pressure.

3. Parisse in Springtime

Irish were able to shackle Parisse effectively but he was given too much freedom by England and they paid for it. However Parisse ain’t what he used to be and seems to be carrying a few extra pounds around the gut. His tackling rate seems to have dropped off as has his pace but you ignore him at your peril. Scotland will need a plan for targeting him at the breakdown and when he gets his hands on the ball. This may be easier than it has been in previous years but if they don’t it could be a very long afternoon.

4. Can they kick it? (No they can’t)

Italy continue their search for a reliable kicker. In some ways this plays into Scotland’s hands and may allow players greater freedom to play with the margins in areas where other teams might slot away a resultant penalty. However Scotland have not been beaten by opposition teams so far this 6 Nations as much as they have been beaten by their own indiscipline. Scotland would have beaten both Wales and France were it not for the high penalty count in kickable positions. Italy might not have a Halfpenny but Scotland cannot take their inability to kick at goal for granted.

A shout out to Andrew Cotter by the way for his insistence on referring to the Italian replacement fly half as Tommy Allen throughout the second half against England instead of Tommaso. Mr Cotter we salute you.

5. A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours

Luca Morisi poses the biggest threat from the Italian backs. He managed to run 67 metres against England and beat six defenders. No mean feat. Bennett has shown he can be a real threat in attack for Scotland but he has missed a few tackles and cannot afford to miss with Morisi coming towards him.

Scotland have shown themselves to be one of the fitter teams in the tournament and unlike previous years have been in a position to push for a win even when the clock and referee are against them. Italy’s lack of fitness showed in the later stages of the game against England and their already misshapen defence opened up even more. Even if Scotland are able to build an early lead they cannot afford to take their foot off the gas as they did against Argentina. The majority of England’s tries against Italy came late in the game and a big score line would give Scotland a lot of confidence in what has been a frustrating tournament so far.

37 Responses

  1. We can’t afford to lose this game. Italy are understrength (Zanni, Castro, Masi, Campagnaro, Sarto all key players who are out) with a callow line up and no proven test match kicker. They have the worst performing line out in the tournament so far and have conceded the most turnovers. They lost by 30pts to an England side showing none of the intensity of their previous win in Cardiff. If Scotland are to take anything positive from this 6N they must put this Italy side away well and follow up with at least two huge performances against England and Ireland if not a win in the final round.

    However, Italy are always doughty, they have players who can hurt us and I have no doubt that we could lose if we don’t perform well. I hope Scotland’s young squad puts down a marker like in the summer test against Argentina and plays with pace and imagination that Italy can’t match. In the Murrayfield stands a fortnight ago I felt this was happening until Russell’s unfortunate card swung the match away from us. Best of luck Scotland.

  2. 1. Pete Horne – I’d just like him to concentrate on doing the basics well (and his halfback partner getting the ball to him quickly). If Horne can distribute clean ball, attack the line when its on, put down Haimona and Parisse when they run at him (which they will), and make his clearance kicks and exits work, then nothing more can be asked of him. He is surrounded by sufficient talent that will do the damage for the team – cool heid required

    2. I think we’ve underused Bob Harley in the lineout thus far – would like to see him jumping at 2 on oppo throws where I reckon he could do a lot of damage. Nothing beats quick lineout ball these days for giving our electric back division the greatest space to work in

    3. Agreed.

    4. In some ways, I hope that Italy watched the Welsh game and have decided that we are vulnerable to the high ball/garryowen – I’d imagine that BVC has worked on that (seem to recall some comments from Hoggy about players in front of the catcher having a vital role to play and them having worked on that), and without a seriously accurate kicker (which Italy don’t possess), a poor kicking game could hand us the ball with space to counterattack or see Italians collecting yellows for ill-timed challenges.

    In terms of place kicking, even if we are less likely to get punished by a high % kicker for giving away penalties in our own half, I’d really like to see signs that our discipline has improved

    5. Morisi seems like a huge talent, and I’m grateful we won’t face him in harness with Campagnaro – could be quite a partnership in years to come, altho they still need to find a decent first five. Think we’ll need to say calm, keep the collective heid and look for the game to open up after 60 – we’ve got the players to take advantage of tiring legs


    1. Seymour coming back and Lamont coming in should help protect us from box-kicks and up’n’unders – both are comfortable in the air. Hogg…well you can’t have everything.

  3. I hope Horne doesn’t give any big miss passes, as he always seems to be intercepted at Glasgow.

      1. Fair comment FF. The last two games have knocked the ‘stuffing’ out of me.
        I still expect a win by 15 points minimum tomorrow.

  4. As a Welshman I am neutral but I really think Scotland will struggle. Lets face it, both teams are rubbish but Italy have a bit more flair. Scotland are definitely a team with a point to prove and they may try a bit too hard and then be hit on the break. I expect it to be a close game but Italy will win. Scotland will probably finish with the wooden spoon in the 6 nations. Full of hope and promise before the 6 nations started, As always, this team fails to make a mark and they haven’t improved much at all from last year.

    1. Nice to welcome you to our forum, neutral DP. Speaking as a supporter of a rubbish team that lost to Wales by three points (a Wales team that is nailed on to be dumped out of the group stage at RWC 15) and who could have won in Paris three weeks ago, I really wish you all the best of luck in Stade de France tomorrow. I hope you get the result you deserve, and that we would all like to see. I can’t remember us Scotland fans crowing in the 80s and for most of the 90s when we used to beat you regularly and when you yourselves were a rubbish outfit. So good luck (not) tomorrow evening.

  5. Don’t forget that Scotland have finished higher than 5th in the six nations on only one occasion since 2001. How many times have Wales won the grand slam or been in the top 3 over that period? That is confirmation that Scotland are rubbish. I don’t think any of your players would even get into the Welsh team. Maybe Scotland has improved a bit but you have lost your first 2 opening games. Sure you pushed us close but we dominated possession and probably deserved to win by a lot more than just 3 points. My own feeling is that Scotland will bottle it against Italy and then lose to England and Ireland by a country mile. My congrats on wining the wooden spoon. Never mind, you can always aim for 5th spot next year.

    1. Don’t forget DP, if you’re going to be sad enough to troll then it should be at least humorous, if not relevant.

      Anyway, best of luck for your game today. Personally, I think your boyos will struggle but Warremball will sadly prevail. I’ve stuck a fiver on Warren to also field 3 concussed players through the course of the game, what do you think?

  6. It has been said that some of the Scottish forwards need to improve lots if they are to feature in Cotters plans for the World Cup. So far vs Italy, I’d sack half of them. Quite apart from this particular game, the modern scrum laws have created a farcical situation. Fix it.

    1. We didn’t score enough tries, Italy scored more..that’s why we lost. Clancy is crap but lets move on from blaming various refs because our rugby team is mince eh?

  7. Ref wasn’t great but not the reason we lost. Utterly abject, dull, flat performance. Just cannot believe the difference in intensity from what we’ve seen up to now.

    Well done to the Italians though, the emotion they showed was incredible.

    More beer required.

    1. Too many players are simply not good enough and I don’t just mean today. Ford, Murray, Beattie, Laidlaw, Horne, Harley all played dreadfully today. I don’t agree with Nicol et al who tried to make out he had a good game, he gave no structure to the game at all and has absolutely no kicking game whatsoever. Murray is at least two years past his sell by date. Ford contributed nothing today in any facet. Beattie is a disgrace and should be named and shamed by Cotter. Laidlaw may be a half decent scrum half but he is no captain or leader of men. Rob Harley was invisible other than when he kept slipping off his prop in the scrum.

      Worst performance in years today. Utterly shameful from the lot of them. Where next though? It’s a never ending cycle of poor play when the chips are down. Do they bring in Cross, Brown, toolis, Denton, Ashe, Cusiter/SHC, Russell for next week? Will they be just as poor?

      1. As bad a performance as I can remember. What I don’t understand is why Horne was prevented from kicking all day and then given the penalty at the end which just needed to be hoofed out. Brainless.

      2. Agree that Ford, Murray and Laidlaw could be replaced immediately; at this stage in their careers they are unlikely to perform any better.

  8. As against France, Scotland outmuscled. Ref favoured Italy perhaps more than was entirely justified, but certainly Scotland authors of own misfortune. Big, aggressive ball carring forwards needed.

  9. slow clap for Scotland. Poor for all those fans who watched and paid a lot of money to sit and watch that at murrayfield.

  10. Utter mince. We got what we deserved. Why can’t Scotland defend a driving maul?!! Ever!!! Honestly we are such a soft touch. Laidlaw has to go. So slow it beggars belief. That said the travesty would have been if we won that match.

    1. Glasgow manage to defend mauls but they don’t have to carry Ford and Dickinson or Murray (unless they have to!) and they have a pack leader in Al Kellock. I would look at picking the glasgow tight five then putting Denton at six, Cowan at seven and John Barclay at eight (he plays well there for scarlets).

      1. Packed down at eight against Ulster and he is about the same size as Adam Ashe. TBH I would play anyone ahead of Beattie at the moment!

  11. ACE- Wales win in Paris and Scotland lose to Italy- the perfect weekend don’t you think. WODEN SPOON, WOODEN SPOON, WOODEN SPOON Ha! Ha! and bleedin HA!

    1. Well, well, it’s Dorothy Perkins again.

      You know, your mother is really good in bed – but I suspect you found that out for yourself already.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion