Scottish Rugby Blog

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Italy v Scotland: Match Preview Pt II – head to heads

Italy v Scotland
© Scottish Rugby Blog

After sweltering in Singapore last summer this is the second meeting for these two sides in the Townsend era. That game in Asia was notable for Ross Ford snapping his 87 Test scoreless streak – with a try double no less! Might Ryan Wilson or David Denton (with 74 caps combined) break their duck eggs on Saturday? And is Toony’s selection the right one to anaesthetise the Italians?

Tale of the tape

16   Tries   59
134   Total caps   250
82   6N caps  125
25.0   Average age   27.5

873kg   Pack weight   894kg
381   Total caps  284
186   6N caps   131
29.1   Average age   29.2

97   Total caps   189
44   6N caps   89
26.1   Average age   25.7

Scotland changes from last Test (v Ireland)

  • 14 – Tommy Seymour for Blair Kinghorn
    [+] King Blairhorn may be the future for Scotland but Seymour’s aerial skills add another dimension in attack and defence.
  • 12 – Nick Grigg for Peter Horne
    [=] a contrast in styles with the direct runner getting the nod over the distributor to take on the Italian midfield.
  • 2 – Fraser Brown for Stuart McInally
    [=] a bit of a rest for Rambo after an excellent campaign and a luxury to replace him with a player of a similar standard.
  • 3 – Willem Nel for Simon Berghan
    [+] Scotland’s first choice tighthead takes back his jersey.
  • 4 – Tim Swinson for Grant Gilchrist
    [-] possibly brought in to counter Italy’s lightweight but aggressive lock pairing.
  • 18 – Zander Fagerson for Willem Nel
    [=] he’ll have a different kind of impact from the bench compared to WP last week – guaranteed energy and abrasiveness in the loose from the elder Fagerson.
  • 19 – Richie Gray for Tim Swinson
    [+] Jonny’s brother returns.

15 Matteo Minozzi
14 Tommaso Benvenuti
13 Giulio Bisegni
12 Tommaso Castello
11 Mattia Bellini
10 Tommaso Allan
9 Marcello Violi
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Tommy Seymour
13 Huw Jones
12 Nick Grigg
11 Sean Maitland
10 Finn Russell
9 Greig Laidlaw

1 Andrea Lovotti
2 Leonardo Ghiraldini
3 Simone Ferrari
4 Alessandro Zanni
5 Dean Budd
6 Sebastian Negri
7 Jake Polledri
8 Sergio Parisse (c)

ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy

1 Gordon Reid
2 Fraser Brown
3 Willem Nel
4 Tim Swinson
5 Jonny Gray
6 John Barclay (c)
7 Hamish Watson
8 Ryan Wilson

16 Oliviero Fabiani
17 Nicola Quaglio
18 Tiziano Pasquali
19 Abraham Steyn
20 Giovanni Licata
21 G. Palazzani
22 Carlo Canna
23 Jayden Hayward

ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland

16 Stuart McInally
17 Jamie Bhatti
18 Zander Fagerson
19 Richie Gray
20 David Denton
21 Ali Price
22 Peter Horne
23 Blair Kinghorn


Backs – advantage Scotland
Italy’s wingers, Mattia Bellini and Tomasso Benvenuti, have missed 21 tackles so far in the tournament but, along with Matteo Minozzi they provide an attacking threat that was missing from Italian sides of old. The backline is still a work in progress though – with 5 of the players on 12 caps or less this is about building combinations for the 2019 RWC. Scotland have their first choice backs on show bar Nick Grigg – but it’s the pocket rocket who may actually end up being the key to unlocking the Italian midfield defence and getting his own wingers one-on-one with the aforementioned Bellini and Benvenuti.

Forwards – advantage Scotland
The famed Italian scrummaging power is a thing of the past, rendered relatively impotent by the updates to the scrum engagement laws and their own changes in personnel. A real issue now for the Italians is a rather old-fashioned mindset in their props’ play. It’s simply not possible for them to win games through their setpiece prowess but they are contributing relatively little around the pitch as well. The combined efforts of Italy’s starting and substitute props have managed just 6 carries per game with a little over 4 metres of ground gained (Scotland’s big men average more than double that return in both stats).

Subs – advantage Scotland
Scotland’s bench has been solid, although not really game-changing, throughout the championship. Having Zander Fagerson and Richie Gray available for the first time in this season’s 6 Nations is a big boost for the pack and will help the forwards get (or keep?) the upper hand late on. Blair Kinghorn should be flying after a successful first start last week and will hopefully get on early enough to strut his stuff.


– It’s been more than a year since Richie Gray played Test rugby and this will be the first time he has featured under head coach, Gregor Townsend.

– This is the most experienced starting XV (534 caps) – and also matchday 23 (723 caps) – that Toony has named during his 11 matches in charge.

– Italy have used 31 players in total in this 6 Nations. 11 Italians have started every game in the tournament and there are only 2 changes from the XV played their round 1 match against England.

– Scotland have used 34 players in total in this 6 Nations. 7 Scots have started every game in the tournament and there are 7 changes from the XV that played their round 1 match against Wales.

– There has been a huge turnover in players for Italy since Conor O’Shea took over. Just 6 of the Italian 23 that took on Scotland in Rome in 2016 return for this fixture – and 3 of them are the veterans Ghiraldini, Zanni and Parisse who are unlikely to play on beyond next year’s RWC.

141 Responses

  1. Thabks very much for these preview articles, I’ve enjoyed them very much throughout the six nations period.

  2. Negri better than Barclay? Controversial! I’d love to see what a full-strength Italian side, with the likes of Sarto and Campagnaro, could do. If they’re fit for the RWC and a couple more of their U20s come through, Italy could be pretty competitive.

    1. Negri is a cracking player – a better 6 than Barclay – but Barclay doesn’t really play 6 – more a 6.5.

  3. I would say you’re being a bit harsh on Grigg. He’s been picked to do a job and to do it better than anyone else available. I think he’ll have a good game and I think he’ll leave the hail Mary passes to Russell. He can do the Graeme Morrison crash ball better than the man himself. I generally don’t think that’s a style we want to go back to but I think Toonie has something direct in mind for the first half at least.

  4. Ghiraldini is 33 years of age , some would say past his best others would say at his prime.

    However he has 93 tests and 5 tries under hs belt. Fraser Brown is just back after a long spell out , 30 starts and 1 try. He is 28 years old, not young either. We are gambling that the break has refreshed him !

    I would say the gap is less than ADV Scotland , perhaps ‘even’ would be more realistic. The italian may not have the legs any more but he has the experience to take Italy through the first 50 mins.

    Like others , I would approach Italy with care, they have one match to salvage pride , the ref is inconsistent at best, If we think we have done all the hard work already and this is an opportunity to showboat, we are sunk.

    This game needs careful game management quarter by quarter and a captain that can inspire change as needed.

  5. You’ve been very generous to some of the Italians there: is it so we don’t come across as too confident?

    Canna better than Horne? Nah.

    Negri better than Barclay? Possibly in the future.

    Quaglio better than Bhatti? In the scrum maybe, but not in the loose.

    This could go two ways. A thumping victory, with early scores leading to confident and exhibitionist play. Or a complete nail biter.

  6. Yeah, at the start of the week I was feeling quietly confident about this one, and finishing on a high. But as the week has gone on, I’ve had nagging doubts quite similar to those I had before the Fiji game last Summer. This is much closer to a full strength Scotland side, so hopefully it is nothing more than years (and years) of experience watching Scotland make a mess of this fixture, and the natural unease of expecting a win. The Italians are a danger though, and they are scoring tries. Needs a good professional performance.

  7. I hope the team go out and play sensible rugby for the first half and build a lead that breaks the Italian confidence so we can get a few tries in the second half.

    I also hope Huw Jones lasts the game as his injury in this fixture last year cost me the title in the SRB Fantasy league! Although this year I’m possibly too far behind Chocolate Salty Mauls to get the title (switching Stockdale for Evans last round was a tactical error ?)

  8. I hope Scotland play like they are playing the All Blacks…with maximum intensity and complete accuracy.

  9. Quite an old side we have out. Only really an issue on the wings where we don’t have many options coming through.

  10. Great win for Edinburgh tonight, given how awful the first half was. How Fowles got near the Scotland squad is beyond me! He made Laidlaw look like a freakin’ dervish. And the refs had a nightmare… but at least they admitted one mistake. Still, Fife looked really good and the pack was solid as. Really hope they make the play-offs.

    1. John Hardie and Bradbury were excellent. They completely dominated the breakdown.

      Glasgow only need 10 points to clinch a home semi now. Glasgow should be looking for 5 next week against Zebre. Edinburgh are away to Connacht. Munster play Scarlets which will help one of the Scottish teams. The fixtures are set up for an exciting end to the season.

      1. Agree that Glasgow should be home semi-finalists now. Wins against Zebre & Connacht plus a couple of points elsewhere should do it, although I am sure Rennie & co will want to make a statement of intent by winning at least 4/5 of the remaining fixtures for momentum going into the semis.

        I also think that 10 – 12 points might be enough for Edinburgh as well, despite Ulster having a game in hand. Ulster have Cardiff – 4 wins on the bounce, Edinburgh (5 Ws) at home, Glasgow, Ospreys and Munster. Not an easy run in and they have only beaten the Kings in their last 4. If they fail to turn over Cardiff next week then the pressure is really on them to win at Murrayfield, and you suspect that Cockerill would love that sort of game to help define his first season in charge.

    2. Yes, I thought the ball might be taken to the mortuary at HT as it had been kicked to death. Sometimes, though, lack of quality means nothing, as in this case. A WIN was what was required, and delivered. As good a result for Glasgow as for Edinburgh! ??

    3. A win is a win but that was not good to watch. Almost made Ireland look exciting…

      I always thought Ben Whitehouse was good but there were some odd decisions today.

      And talking of odd decisions, why Edinburgh kept kicking the ball away when they were getting pumped in the arial battle I don’t understand.

      Finally, VdM is outstanding!

      1. I’ll give you that, that was a piece of brilliance. But you’ve got to admit there was a lot of kicking!

    4. Surprised that any scrum half in Scotland keeps his place if he persists in such ponderous and predictable antics.

  11. OK, last week was disappointing, but a win tomorrow and Scotland have won 3/5 back to back for the first time in the 6N. Progress is being made, and it is in the right direction. Overall I’d agree with Kevins’ analysis of the teams. Scotland clearly have earned their place in the world rankings over the last couple of years, and should be able to record the win in Rome. The one area of concern is the back row. Kevin has this shaded in Italys’ favour. Given the problems we’ve had in the past with M. Gauzere at the breakdown, it is part of the game where Scotland will have to be clinically accurate to avoid conceding penalties and territory. In Scotlands’ favour however is the huge disparity in experience across the back row & bench, outwith Parisse. The 4 Italian players who either start or come on in the back row have fewer caps between them than either Wilson or Denton, with Mish not far behind. Maybe I’m reading too much into Kevins’ analysis!

  12. Superb win for Edinburgh. Shame Hardie is leaving but imagine he’s on a relatively big deal and the back row is well covered these days with the young boys. Just 4.5 years until Van der Merwe becomes Scots qualified, has looked extremely good the last few months.

    By the way I have a bad feeling for today and think Italy will cause an upset at 10/1. Just feels like it was Championship over after the England win, why were some of the players blootered after that with 2 more games to go.

    1. VdM was signed before the cut-off, I think, so the 3-year residency rule still applies.

    2. VDM doesn’t have to wait 4.5 years, as he started his residency period before the end of 2017. He’ll qualify for Scotland in time for the AIs in 2020, so plenty of time to pick up a head of steam in time for RWC2023. I like him and he’s got a lot of potential, he’s a big guy, but the burst of pace to surge past Zebo for the opening try and phenomenal.

      1. He will need to work on his skillset hugely if he wants to get into international rugby, he can not catch or pass and is poor under the high ball, he also gets caught out on chips from the opposition occasionally.

        Clearly he has the physical attributes though.

      2. Yes, there are things to work on in that respect, but clearly there is time for him to do so before international rugby is an option. At this moment, he is more Visser than Seymour, but he’s young enough to develop into a more all-round player.

      3. Now now Smidge , I cannot have you saying that. You are a great poster by the way, but you are being a bit unfair on Visser to make the comparison with VDM.

        Seymour 16 tries from 42 caps, Visser 14 tries from only 33 caps. Nothing between them in that bit of objective evidence.

        We have 3 years to talk about VDM.
        All the old arguments about his tackling are just subjective. As we all know Seymour is presently not the animal he once was.

        Now there , you see, I am getting all subjective now.

    3. Because it was 2 weeks to the next match and they earned a blow out. Players are not robots.

      1. Now Now they are people, unlike robots they have personal choices, they are also entertainers , they beat a great side and met the public legless and out of control just like the rest of them.

        If that is what is going on outside, what is going on inside.

        I would have made different choices,but that is me , just saying.

    4. The big battle for Scotland are off the pitch.

      Physically we are strong as steel , we could beat Wales and Ireland however we do not play our rugby a minute at a time. We allowed one schoolboy howler to convince us we were not good enough to be there.

      We could not believe the gaps were there and one pass from glory against Ireland.

      Our feet of clay , is the belief we are still not good enough.

      We need to get points on the board quickly today or those doubts will creep in and eventually Italy (or more likelly we) will stone those feet of clay with an own goal.

      1. I think you got this right doggers old boy, spot on yet again. Never mind the feet of clay, they have ears of cloth.

    5. Agree, great win from Embra & took the lead with 14 men on the pitch. Harries looked exposed at times but thought Bradbury had a good game at 6 – seems to have really improved on his breakdown work & carried hard, though without making a huge breakthrough. Cockerill really has been a scoop for Scottish rugby.
      On the national team, hopefully a convincing win today & a deserved 3rd spot at least (come on Ireland!). After an alleged crisis, now have more test props than you can shake a stick at, though need more depth at 2. A glut of centres too but biased towards 13, so hope Grigg has a great game bashing it through the 10/12 channel. Just me or are we a bit short of young upcoming wings – Graham perhaps but what has happened to Hoyland who looked promising not so long ago? We have a good choice presently but most are in their late 20s. Maybe use Kinghorn out wide more so he comes a genuine 14/15 player. Better get settled in with a beer or two to scream at the telly!

    6. You have some intuition (@ Busy Little Bee)!

      Italy played off their socks; almost like this was the one game they had trained for the whole six nations…good grief!

      Well done Italy. Scotland will surely never come to Rome thinking “let’s blow them away!”

      So glad we manged to pull it back in the end!

  13. Edinburgh are very hard to beat now, RC has done a tremendous job. Wonder if releasing Hardie is the right thing to do. He is a 7 of the highest quality.
    Re today agree with some of the above comments – we need to get points on the board, make Italy think/open up a wee bit early doors.

    1. You have to give the MoM for the fist 30 mins to a scotsman. Thomasso Allan . We are not crossing the gain line, going back in rucks .

  14. Current 2nd rows are not tall enough for lineout, brown has gotten the throw to the person each time and italians are just slapping it out our hands, seems to be the issue all 6 nations, Bring in R.Gray and Gilchrist for future.

    1. Maybe but I think you are wrong , Brown is just not getting it right in terms of pace.

  15. Laidlaw is looking unbelievably slow…. defense is easily getting set against us and it makes it so much harder to score in their 22.

    To much white line fever returning also.

    1. Problem isn’t Laidlaw it is our soft pack and the fact we’re never breaking the gainline and going backwards. Lazy to just blame your usual scapegoat. We have no intensity, accuracy is poor, bad Russell has turned up and all of Toonie’a changes look to have made the team worse, barring Seymour who hasn’t really been in the game.

      Huw Jones should hang his head in shame for waving through Allan.

      We need a big response. Most teams benefit from Italy’s failing stamina in the second half but if there is one thing to give an underdog extra energy it is winning a junkyard scrap against a panicking opponent.

      Losing this afternoon would undo all Scotland’s progress if the last year – this is a poor Italian team every other 6N side have walloped.

      1. Correct FF, lack of a genuine crash ball option is making it difficult for us. Denton, R.Gray & Bhatti should’ve started to give the backs front foot ball

      2. Ff hard to break the gainline when laidlaw is giving their defense 5 seconds to set themselfs up.

    2. The bench need to come on early , We are blowing . Italy this season have fallen at 50 mins. It is much to slow from the rucks . The Italian Hooker and Paraisse are showing years of experince but will fall away 2nd half.

  16. Bring on R.Gray and Price right away.
    Sorts the lineout and sorts the tempo.

    Brown is looking good, Nel is doing ok apart from getting skinned in the lead up to Allens try.
    Swinson is just not a starter for me and im surprised he is ahead of R.gray/Gilchrist and Toolis.
    Grigg has looked solid so far and made some good carries and tackles.

  17. Clearly wearing orange boots turns you into playing like a muppet.

    This is woeful from us, Italy just need to hold onto the ball and are in with a shout. Too many of our much vaunted backs think they can walk this game – the body language from Maitland and Hogg especially is shocking. For all Jones attacking attributes its clear he still has some way to go on his handling and defence skills.

    We need some changes and we need to sort out our defence.

    This has got defeat written all over it.

    1. Oh I think you are right with the orange boots, but skimming off the top on your condemnation.

      Hogg is actually shocking today. No Full Back covering the grubber, schoolboy howler .

      Maitland saved a sure try earlier so not sure I agree.

      lets man up and show our teeth if we are going to be critical.

  18. Pathetic. All championship chat from barclay has been about us as contenders – we look like a laughing stock now.

    1. This has BP loss all over it.

      I don’t think I’ve ever been as angry about a Acotland performance. Utterly spineless.

  19. Away standard is simply not good enough to win anything. What a shambles today.
    Its a fine margin…lose this match and its a poor 6N.
    Italy always knew this match was their best chance of a win….until we aren’t seen as that by opposition we won’t have progressed.
    I don’t think the selections, likes of Swinson, Reid etc, for this match will take us forward….cant see us going forward to be a real consistent threat until the current generation of young players …Kinghorn, Fagerson etc etc establish themselves.

    1. Now you are talking , lets stop telling him it is ok to be a one man team. The ref missed him no arms tackling so he could be off anytime with his pathetic attempts to tackle.

  20. Nice to see how much more competitive we are looking now Price is on to give us quick service …

    1. Price did make a big difference – but so did the big boys in the pack and Italy’s fitness showing. Gray, McInally, Denton all added some beef. Also, Laidlaw at FH did a good shift.

      We didn’t really deserve to win based on most of the game. We showed a very soft underbelly. Too many ‘big’ names went AWOL.

  21. Despite the win that was an unacceptable performance for the first 60 minutes, an absolute joke.

    My Scotland player of the tournament – Sean Maitland for consistency.

  22. Im glad to see the players looking miserable and knowing that performance is not good enough.

  23. That was a mentally weak performance. Get it sorted or we will never be threatening the top of the table.

    Too many players didn’t turn up, weren’t switched on and looked like they couldn’t be arsed. Toonie needs to take some of the flack for that and he needs to find away of motivating the team away from Murrayfield!

    1. Toonie should start by picking his best 23 – you don’t give game time for the sake of it in the 6Ns.

      1. Nel really wasn’t ready to start either – whereas Berghan was having a very good tournament.

    2. Players always look like that when it’s not clicking. They were clearly motivated, just came up against a pacey, accurate opposition. Give Italy the credit.

      1. Italy played very well. But we will never be a championship troubling team if Italy can bully us out of a game.

        We need to toughen up.

  24. Ref missed a swinging arm that ended Russell’s game. I was surprised he didn’t even look at it and got no flag from the TMO.

    1. Agreed. The commentator even said that Russell ‘ran into a swinging arm’ but then didn’t suggest it was worth looking at.

  25. Ali Price and Pete Horne changed the game. Well done Greig Laidlaw and good score from Hoggy (bizarre criticism above).

    That was a step back but it was still a BP win. Last 20 was the best part of the game. 6 wins out of 10 over last two years. We are competitive again, let’s enjoy it.

  26. Scotland celebrating like they won a grand slam when they got out of jail to one of the weakest Italian teams of last 2 decades.
    Ye have a long way to go and going nowhere fast. It’s just the usual crap from the Scots.
    Light years behind the Irish in development and that was proven today

    1. To be fair, Italy have improved massively, as have their clubs, they played well vs england until they tired. Didn’t see Scotland players celebrating wildly. I did expect better, 1st 60 our pack lacked ferocity and backs didn’t click.

    2. I always chuckle when I read trolls who are articulate and amusing. Unfortunately, you have a platform but have nothing intelligent to say.

    3. Who did you see celebrating?

      Trolling a Scottish message board 15 minutes before a grand slam decider. A Scot must have really wronged you in the past.

  27. It just wasn’t a performance that shows we have progressed away from home. GT needs to use the summer and AIs to expedite some developing talent. We have better players coming through than the aging players we keep using by default.

  28. I shall look forward to the Player Ratings on this debacle , but you know , we clawed it back to win. That has to be something to reflect on.

      1. Quite the reverse Huw Jones is from Millfield School , that is where the rugby royalty come from and I have to say, will be his downfall in Scotland.

        Probably just a long 18 months for him.

    1. Agreed….looks amazing when the going is good…but when real grit is required ..goes missing.

      1. Rubbish. He turned the England game and was the only player who turned up at Twickenham last year. O Halloran thinks he has the most complete skill set of any centre he has worked with. If any player is understandably tired, it is the guy who has come straight from a South African season to the Pro 14, to internationals. You can see the Millfield influence, not on the pitch, but on those in this forum so ready to cuss one of the few players who would walk straight into the other six nations teams. Yawn.

    2. I agree with both of these…maybe not “skills” in a physical sense but positioning etc…Also looks to score first and defend later, even when defending on the line, which may be a SuperRugby hangover…the league that defence forgot.

      1. When he’s under pressure and has to pass or offload, he’s not good enough.

        Quite why Toonie thought he could play 12 is beyond me.

      2. Not rocket science – strange he’s not made one pass of note in the whole 6ns. Every time he’s pressured into decision he’s made a poor one – Defensively he’s at sea too.

        World class going forward.

  29. Good teams find a way to win. Obviously, big issues to be addressed, but the main reason we played poorly today was how good Italy were in the first 60. Fast, accurate rugby.

    Remember how annoying it was when some pundits went on about how poor England were rather than how good Scotland were in the Calcutta Cup? Let’s give Italy their due. They had a plan to disrupt us with multiple players at pace at the breakdown and it worked until they got tired.

    Pete Horne and Ali Price made a big difference and Laidlaw at 10 pulled the strings without slowing it down (as he had at 9).

    1. I agree Andrew – Italy were very good for 60mins and we shouldn’t forget that. But good sides find a way of countering that and IMO we didn’t. Too timid, too mentally fragile – for all their talk they had all the body language of a team that thought they just had to turn up.

      1. True, we definitely let it get to us far more than we should have, although our first try was a beauty in the build-up.

        I thought Fraser Brown looked hugely motivated in the first half. 14 tackles in that first 40 and over the ball at almost every breakdown.

        There was something almost kamikaze about Italy attacking the breakdown. It reminded me of Simone Favaro.

    2. It is worth a quick look at the head to head ratings in the above article. The Italians were better than their ratings in many positions.

  30. well,talk about an get out of jail free card! although an poor performance ,an win is an win, but in my opinion Italy deserve loads of credit for that performance,strong tackling,powerful running,good lineout disruption etc.i hope they(Italy) can really build on that performance for the good of this tournament and world cup.just like to say congratulations to Connor O’Shea and his team on an wonderful performance.

      1. I agree Italy played well but we didn’t start with any intensity and when Italy get in rhythm are hard to play against till they notably tired in 55min mark.For me in front row thought Frazer brown looked good in loose and breakdown several important turnovers throwing into line out bit dodgy though Props scrummager well apart from first one but did not much in open play bench had big improvement. Second row Swinson had mare line out poor and constantly driven back in tackle J gray pass marks thought R gray should have come on sooner. Back row tried hard but were outplayed today.Laidlaw bit to slow but he didn’t have much front foot ball to play with he has composure when needed also.Mixed bag from Finn seemed to panic at times.Centres didn’t click that we’ll probably how Jones worst game for Scotland.Seymour didn’t look fit Maitland did ok. Hogg had average game but scored winning try he has the X factor about him also thought Pete Horne made a huge difference today.

  31. The first half 15 looked tired. It was almost like Scotland of 5 or more years ago. I was particularly disappointed by the front row who looked unmotivated and slow. The back play equally was ponderous and error-ridden. Russell was poor today and lacked any of his usual inventive play. The replacements at half time made a huge difference especially the front row but the injection of pace by bringing on Price won the game for me. The Italians by then were exhausted and couldn’t cope with rate of play in the last 20 mins.
    If it was England playing Italy, the fans would be talking about ‘grinding out a win’ or ‘closing out the game’. All in, quite a good way to finish the 6N: a bonus point win and awareness that we must improve.

  32. We’re now sitting in 2nd place on 13 points and could still be there in the final table!

    Come on Ireland, France and Wales! :)

  33. few things need to be fixed.

    1. Start turning up to away games earlier and not the night before or on the day.

    2. Get a specialist line out coach or bring in big second rows to deal with it.

    3. Get a skills coach, we used to be so clinical in the oppositions 22 under Cotter and that is faltering now. Was it O’hallaran who was an expert in that area ?

    On the players i think a few answers have been revealed leading to the world cup.

    1. Mcinally starts, i was very impressed by Browns breakdown work but Mcinally offers alot better go forward ball.

    2. Swinson cant start – he is just to small. Possibly can be a bench impact.

    3. Price starts for me, he bring alot faster service and Laidlaw seems perfect for closing a game out so why not have him come of bench as a 9 or 10 replacement.

  34. Sod it. A wins a win. I want us to start winning games. This isnt ice skating where you get points for looking good. Some consistency to sort out but our bench saved us today and that says something about our depth. Alot of players didn’t turn up to be sure but they don’t turn into bad players overnight.

  35. Credit to Laidlaw for that cool kick at the end – but Price gives a much more slick performance behind the pack. Russell needs competition at 10.

  36. Gad we got the win in the end.

    Italy have been ok in most of the games they have played this year up until the hour. This was Italy’s second home game so it was expected they would also step up another level again playing at home, which they did.

    It was very frustrating to watch as we are saying the same things that we said after the Ireland game, no real improvement.
    Overall 3 wins, 2 of them not very convincing. 2 losses which we were well and trully beat.

  37. Our defence was terrible. Connor O’shea was shaking his head walking off at half time no doubt thinking all his team had to do was run into Scotland defenders and they would score.

    Hopefully that is the end of Grigg with Scotland, he’s too small and can’t pass. Laidlaw was poor at 9 but again he proved his worth to the team. Huw Jones had a poor game but he was more a victim of the malaise and disorganisation around him. It’s a learning curve for Townsend and he f*cked up with the team selection in Cardiff and today we look unprepared.

    Watching the game at Twickenham now. How is it that Rob Kearney is continually allowed to pull the hand or wrist of the opposition jumper?

  38. Good to keep the nerve for the win in the end. Think they need to change the preparation they have for away games as the mentality just doesn’t seem right at the start. On hindsight I think we were too cautious in the first half about Gauzere’s interpretation of the breakdown. We didn’t give away many penalties in the whole game but we got blown away at the breakdown as a result. Its fine margins! I think we also need to have a look at the defence set up. We’ve conceded too many tries this year.

    1. Nail on head I think. Terrified of being whistled to death at the breakdown.

      As others have said, lineout needs fixing ASAP. Swinson is not the answer.

  39. Absolute garbage and should be the end of the current defensive coach. On the plus side we would have lost that game a couple of years ago and also the Maul was awesome.

  40. The team stepped up a gear in the final quarter to win it. They deserve credit for doing that.
    It’s risky to change the team for an away game and pick inexperienced players like Nick Grigg. Townsend did it to give few players a rest and got away with it. It’s also a dead rubber of a game regarding the championship and Italy would have been desperate. That’s 3 seasons without a wjn for them. Those are the conditions which can make you vulnerable to an upset. Overall you can’t be unhappy.
    If this continues at Twickenham we’ll finish above England and if Wales can see off France it will be a Celtic 123.

    1. I think the team stepped up because of the substitutions playing better rugby and Italy exponentially running out of gas at the 60 min mark.
      Italy look like they are really improving… thought Polledri looks a class player.
      They are like us a few years back….no bench quality.. so when the starters are goosed..its backs to the wall stuff.

  41. Loads of people thought we’d turn up and win by 20 ignoring our away form, Italy desperation in a dead rubber meaningless tournament end fixture for us and that 1/3 of the team had been changed.
    The same people thought we’d tank Wales. Also unrealistic!
    I’m happy with that result today.
    We went nearly 2 scores down but stepped up a gear and beat their pack in the final quarter and did what we had to.
    If you think games like that are easy or you just turn up and win by 20 then you need your head looked at.

  42. Well, what can you deduce from this Scotland team?

    Not much strength in depth given a couple of injuries, Laidlaw/Price, Russell, Horne/Grigg, Jones must be the lightest 9/10/10/12/13 ever. Dunbar, Taylor can’t return quick enough.

    Likewise the back row, lightweight at this level.

    Both fine when its a nice open game but………..

    R.Gray, McInally made a big difference, I’m not at all sure if Brown is still a better 7 than 2.

    Liked Bradbury & Hardie for Edinburgh last night.

  43. That was a pretty dispiriting display. Quite why Townsend felt the need to make so many changes is beyond me. And to bring in players like Swinson ahead of R Gray makes it even more laughable. Gordon Reid and Nel were, quite frankly, embarrassing today. They contributed absolutely zilch and shouldn’t be anywhere near that squad again on this showing. There’s a reason Reid is at a club rooted to the bottom of the league and not still at Glasgow. Swinson is a club pro at best. Toolis, Gilchrist and Cummings are all superior players. Russell is on the ferry to Paris already it seems. He’s had one good game this tournament and with nearly 40 caps we should be expecting much more from him than that. Laidlaw was poor at 9. This was obvious from the sudden increase in pace when Price came on. Hopefully a new defence coach in the summer and the deadwood ditched for some young blood like G Horne, Ritchie, Marfo, Bradbury, Fagerson, Cummings, Kinghorn et al. Seymour hasn’t improved much since his diabolically bad club form of earlier this season and should also be worried. Townsend has always been a ropey selector and you can get away with that over a club season of 22 games, not in a tourney of 5.

    One pleasing aspect of the game today was the fact they looked depressed when the whistle went. At least they knew it was crap and not a reason to cheer.

    1. Not sure why you’re quite so downbeat, Allan. And as a result too harsh and dismissive of individuals on the basis of one poor display that was turned around and ended with a win away from home! Against an Italian side who probably put together their best 60 minutes for years.

      I agree not everyone had a good game but that doesn’t mean we throw them out. I’m afraid the players you suggest should come in will also be dismissed in forums when they have an off game or two. Let’s keep working with all of them and never underestimate the value of experience in a team.

      1. The thing is, its not just “one poor display”. Reid has been rubbish in the loose all tourney. Swinson hasnt contributed anything in a Scotland shirt for a long time. Laidlaw has one good game for every four average/poor games. Nel hasn’t been great since his broken arm either. Seymour has been poor all season too. Russell is just not at the races since announcing his move to Paris. Need I go on? Townsend needs to stop fannying about picking on reputation and pick of form. There’s no room for sentiment at test level.

    2. Agreed.
      Glad the players didn’t look happy after that. A win yes but… could easily have been a loss…and just too much sloppy play.Dont get the fuss over Seymour…Kinghorn looks a better more dangerous winger..and he’s a FB. Nel? either not fit …or just not as good. Looks more like a darts player ..than a modern day prop.
      Reid… a backup to a backup who backs up. Dont know how his chicken legs carry the upper weight.
      Swinson…meh… a solid pro.. mediocre test level player. Please stop picking him GT! Id rather Cummings gets a shot than him.
      I feel like Russell needs some serious stand off coaching and mental coaching still. Maybe France will be good for him. He’s up and down like a yo-yo. Boy.. do we need to find another 10 to challenge.
      Barclay has played well in a couple of matches and poor in some others. I just think he is a backup these days…I think he’s close to being past it actually. Wilson too… makes no gains whatsoever. Coaches seem to keep playing him tho… I just dont see why. Denton is incredibly underwhelming for a guy with his physique. We want him to be good enough…but he isn’t.
      Watson is a very good player but he needs more power and aggression around him. I think he will do far better with the likes of Bradbury, Hamilton, Crosbie, Fagerson and Ritchie playing around him with Hardie to replace him if he’s goosed.
      Laidlaw is a tricky one. Its like we can’t do without him simply because when we need 3 points on the board he is the only trusted option. His overall game is completely unsuited to the style of rugby we are trying to play. We need to move on imo. Horne & Price are the best we have.
      Hogg has played like a prima donna in this 6N. Was terrific last 6N ..but his play this 6N has looked well short of what he can do.
      He needs to re-find his best form for the 6N and WC. I could honestly see Kinghorn leapfrogging him sooner that could have been imagined not so long ago.
      Why do we seem like the only team that cannot catch a high ball?…its ridiculous. Our restarts are still crap too

      Hats off to Italy. They are going to be a tough nut next year. Really improving.

  44. Well that was grim in the flesh and a baw hair win. Felt for the Italians, who must be gutted. Incredibly gracious in defeat considering it was a game they very much could have won. The positive is that we actually won. I have been to a heap of games where the shoe has been on the other foot and finding a way to win against the run of play is a sign of progress. The bench had a significant impact.

    1. I always used to wonder what it felt like in seasons past for opposition fans after we lost match after match at the death despite being the better side. Now I know.

      Commiserations to Italy; it feels wrong that we got 5 points for that. Very sheepish.

      If italy play like that they’ll get a win next season

  45. For me this was the final proof that we need to get rid of memebers of the ‘old Scotland’. Until we have players only of the new mindset we will be still be at threat of performances of today. Personally I would like to see Townsend highlight the positions where we need new blood and use the next year to blood them in time for the Rwc.

    For example, players out:
    Reid, Swinson, Laidlaw (and perhaps Barclay and Brown)

    To replace give these players more game time:
    Marfo/Bhatti/Sutherland/dell, Cummings, price and G Horne, Ritchie/Bradbury/Fagerson/Crosbie

  46. Team for Argentina in Sunmer:

    1- Marfo
    2- McInally
    3- Nel (if fully fit)
    4- Blade Thomson ;)
    5- Jonny Gray
    6- Ritchie
    7- Watson
    8- Bradbury
    9- Price
    10- Russell
    11- Maitland
    12- Taylor
    13- Jones
    14- Kinghorn
    15- Hogg

    16- Brown
    17- Sutherland
    18- Fagerson
    19- Cummings
    20- Wilson
    21- G Horne
    22- P Horne
    23- Bennett/Seymour

    1. Blade Thomson is exactly type of player we need in 2nd row. No-nonsense aggressive athletic guy who can play too.

  47. Don’t agree with the calls to drop Laidlaw (?!) from some above but agree that should probably be the last we see of Swinson and Gordy Reid (both of whom I like. Marfo, Dell and Sutherland, who was great when he came on against Munster last night, offer so much more at loosehead, and Bhatti will keep improving.

    Not convinced that we have a definitive best centre pairing yet. Jones looks world class on his day but who is the no1 choice at 12? We need these key positions nailed down by the time we set off for Japan. Fingers crossed Duncan Taylor gets back fit soon.

    Finn – aarrgghh. Infuriating. I’d kill for a half-decent backup right now so we can at least bench him if he has a couple of bad games and give him a rest. Need to get Hastings into the system in the summer, even if he’s nowhere near ready to start a Six Nations match yet.

    The Barclay – Watson combination is brilliant when you have a referee who allows a contest at the breakdown but we need the option of a harder carrier in one of the flanker slots (and maybe at 8) when refereed by someone like Gauzere who is much stricter. For that reason Bradbury and Crosbie should both at least tour in the summer. I’d like to see something like Bradbury – Watson – Wilson as a backrow against the US or Canada. Ideally get Strauss back in but that ship seems to have sailed.

    And congratulations to Italy. Polledri and Negri look like a brilliant flanker combination for the next eight years or so – caused us huge problems. They played better rugby than us today and will definitely pick up a couple of wins next year if they sort their fitness out.

    1. Wilson??? He was shocking. The missed tackle was appalling, did anyone notice anything else. He has to go.

      He’s only scored 3 tries in his whole career – what is the point of him in a Scotland jersey?

      1. I dont get what coaches see in Wilson for international level. He’s a solid club player …and a 6 not an 8. Frustrating he keeps getting selected and Bradbury keeps getting sent to club…and Hamilton looked better in his short debut..against the worlds no1 team …than Wilson has any time Ive seen him

  48. I think some people might be overreacting when wielding the axe after that performance. It was terrible but it looks like there is a serious issue with mental preparation for the whole team in away games. We need to fix that ASAP. We also need to be more consistent, we’re not going to win a 6N or RWC if we can’t string more than 2 good games in a row. We were much more physical and aggressive with much more accuracy in the England and France games.

    1. I had originally thought so, but our points difference is so much worse than Wales’, so we would be third on points difference.

      1. I’m now trying to find the definitive rules, but can’t find it. Is it number of wins or who won the head to head or points difference?

        I shouldn’t have been so certain in my earlier post.

      2. Well it didn’t matter in the end. 3rd place, 2 good wins, one lucky win, one horror show, one philosophical loss. We’re in the mix, fairly good tournament (given first England win in a long time). I would also say consolidation is a form of progress given where we are at.

  49. Well after reviewing this tournament i have picked a squad for the summer tour leading up to the world cup.

    Looseheads – Marfo, Dickinson and Bhatti
    Rested – Dell and Sutherland
    Out – Reid

    Hookers – Mcinally, Ford and Turner
    Rested – Brown
    Out – Cochrane and Lawson

    Tighthead – Berghan, Fagerson and Mcallum
    Rested – Nel
    Out – Welsh

    2nd Row – R.Gray, Gilchrist, Toolis Cummings and Carmicheal
    Rested – J.Gray
    Out – Swinson

    Backrow – Denton, Strauss, Hamilton, Bradbury, Ritchie, Hardie and Crosbie
    Rested – Barclay, Watson and Wilson
    Out – Harley and Du Preez

    Scrumhalf – Price, Horne and SHC
    Rested – Laidlaw
    Out – Pyrgos and Fowles

    Fly Half – Horne, Jackson and Hastings
    Rested – Russell
    Out – X

    Centres – Dunbar, Taylor, Bennett, Grigg and Dean
    Rested – Jones and Scott
    Out – Harris

    Wings – Maitland, Visser, Jones, Fife and Mcguigan
    Rested – Seymour
    Out – X

    Fullback – Kinghorn, Tonks
    Rested – Hogg
    Out – X

    Players rested due to long seasons, Looking at depth in certain areas, moving clubs and some who are fresh back from injury/has alot of injuries recently.

    I would expect, R.Gray/Gilchrist and Mcinally to captain one game each to develop leadership with Mcinally being overall tour captain.

    For some of the key players who are still in for the summer, i would the rest those such as Mcinally in the autumn tour.

    1. Why are you resting Brown and Nel when they’ve just come back from long lay-offs?

      1. To have have a look at other players Andrew.

        We Know what brown and Nel can do. and it is a place we could use slightly more competition and depth.

        as we saw at the start of the Six nations we had Lawson, Welsh and Mcallum in.

        You could rest Mcinally for Brown but i want him as my tour captain to develop more leaders within the team.

    2. Good post, I agree almost entirely with every point. I’d be tempted to swap Dunbar and Scott though. We could do with seeing Scott again, and conversely I’d like the perennial sicknote that is Dunbar to take some proper time off before what is going to be a long and important season

      1. Dunbar needs the summer off. As you say he is a perpetual sick note. Give him a decent rest and rehab. Taylor unfortunately seems to be in the same category, so hard to see why Scott doesn’t get another look.

    3. Agree w/ most of your selection….but..
      Why would Dell & Sutherland need rested?…. if they aren’t already well rested they never will be. They need to play test matches imo. Maybe add Cam Fenton also.
      Please not Horne or Jackson at 10!…they have played there and just aren’t good enough 10s period. I dont know why we wouldn’t try Hogg at 10.. Kinghorn at 15 or vice versa.
      Swap Fife or Jones for Graham at wing. Graham at FB also.
      Id rest Maitland…we know what he can do and he’s 1st choice wing.

  50. Yes, this game exposed a few players who couldn’t adjust to or even cope with high intensity play.

  51. Pig sick about that, had a decent size bet on Italy at 10/1.

    3 wins is another good tournament though, even if today was ugly.

    Personnel: how come Toolis is suddenly out the frame? Swinson, Reid…is Townsend biased towards his old Glasgow boys? Nothing against these guys but they look 4th choice at best in their positions. I’d like to see Hardie back involved. It’s increasing apparent Huw Jones for all his good points has hands like oven plates. Nel…when did he last look really good? Possible he won’t get his pre-injuries level back. Thought Grigg did pretty well, as did the maligned Horne off the bench, and it’s good to have Brown back as a top class alternative to McInally.

  52. Not sure how i feel about us finishing 3rd.
    Lots to work on which is encouraging in ways that we can take our performance up for the future.

    I feel we were more competitive last year though despite the finish rankings.

    This year we got soundly beaten by 2 teams
    Scraped past France and Italy
    And smashed England who were left reeling from it for the rest of the tournament.

    For all our talk about attacking rugby we did not score a huge amount of tries either, Stockdale alone almost scored more than us.

    I think having a sound defense away from home is the next step for this team, we can do at murrayfield but not away for some reason.

    1. A (new?) sport psychologist is a must for me. The mental fragility is there for all to see.

  53. Italy played the best rugby of so far in this tournament. And all most people can say was how bad we were! We had no ball for the first 25 minutes FFS. Admittedly due to a lost lineout and stupid penalty. We obviously need to prepare better and harder for away games but if Italy had played this well previously they may have won a game or two and I’m pretty sure our mindset would’ve been better.
    So many posters think that “X was so much better when he came on for Y”. It’s easy to be better when the opposition has already played an hour of rugby. Italy were always going to struggle in the last 20 and our superior bench made the difference. I was confident of winning the last quarter easily. Didn’t expect to have to win it by 12 mind. Yet we Did!
    Scotland would’ve capitulated in previous years. That’s real progress for me.

You might also like these:

Questions, what questions? Rory looks back at the win over England and ahead to the final two rounds of the tournament.
Scotland’s training squad for the 2024 Women’s Six Nations is a mostly familiar core with a smattering of new names – including several who have really impressed in the recent Celtic Challenge matches, writes Eleanor.
Stuart got in touch to tell us about the alternative reality that Saturday's game forced him into. So here it is, the Six Nations Table where Scotland won. To be continued...
Give us your thoughts on the game as Scotland welcome England to Murrayfield.

Scottish Rugby News and Opinion