Italy and Scotland have each made five changes to the XVs that started the game when these two sides met in Rome 266 days ago. Darcy Graham, Duhan van der Merwe, Duncan Weir, Jonny Gray and Blade Thomson joining the fray means that the visitors are not too far off a full strength side. The hosts’ alterations tend more towards experimental and with six players aged 23 and under, head coach Franco Smith appears to have at least one eye on the future.
Tale of the tape
26 Tries 40
89kg Average weight 95kg
111 Total caps 187
24.4 Average age 27.4
870kg Pack weight 897kg
8 Tries 21
140 Total caps 211
25.5 Average age 27.2
21 Tries 16
233 Total caps 99
26.7 Average age 28.0
4 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v Wales)
- 12 – Johnson for Lang [+]
- 11 – van der Merwe for Kinghorn [=]
- 10 – Weir for Russell [-]
- 2 – McInally for Brown [=]
Luca Bigi (c)
Stuart Hogg (c)
Duhan van der Merwe
Backs – advantage Scotland
With Carlo Canna at 28 the oldest player in the backline for Italy, the average age of this group is 3 years younger than it was for the Six Nations game against the same opponents earlier this year. Scotland’s selection has a much more mature and experienced look to it – but most of the backs should still be around for the 2023 RWC in France.
With Sam Johnson reinstated in the centres, his partnership with Chris Harris will make a sixth start – which is the most of any midfield pairing in the Townsend era. The head coach has used 19 different duos at 12 and 13 with Peter Horne / Huw Jones (5 starts) and Sam Johnson / Huw Jones (4 starts) being the other most popular choices.
Forwards – advantage Scotland
This is the first time in Scotland’s last 10 Tests that Gregor Townsend has selected a pack with a total weight under 900kgs. That’s still a sizeable advantage over a relatively lightweight Italian group of forwards which will mean less support for tighthead prop Giosue Zilocchi as he tries to contain Rory Sutherland at the scrum.
Lineouts could also be an area of opportunity for Scotland with Niccolo Cannone the only specialist lock in the Italian 23 and also their tallest player at 6’5″. The dark blues can call upon a trio of 6’6″ lineout specialists in Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray and Blade Thomson. Italy lost 6 on their own throw across their games against Ireland and England and the Scots will hope to be similarly disruptive.
Subs – advantage Scotland
Italy have have nearly as many caps on their bench as they do in their starting XV! That’s mainly down to the presence of the veteran Leonardo Ghiraldini and 50+ caps from Tomasso Allan (incidentally the only two players in the lineup who have experienced a win over Scotland at Test level).
Scotland have seen a solid impact from their bench in their last two fixtures. The tight 5 certainly won’t get any weaker when the replacements join the fray and there should be plenty of energy and pace from the subs available for the backline.
– Matchday squad splits by club:
- Italy – Benetton 8; Zebre 10; Exiles 5.
- Scotland – Edinburgh 9; Glasgow 6; Exiles 8.
– Scott Cummings will play his 15th game in a row for Scotland. The young lock is the only man to feature in 15 consecutive matches during the Townsend era.
– With three years to go until the 2023 World Cup, Italy have just 2 players aged 29 or older in their lineup (1 starter and 1 sub) who might be considered less likely to make it to that tournament in France. Scotland have 7 in the 29+ bracket (5 starters and 2 subs).
– Scotland are looking for their 3rd consecutive away win. The only longer streaks than that in the national side’s history came in the two periods they managed 5 wins in a row (February 1889 – February 1892 and February 1925 – February 1927).
Missed part 1? Check it out here with an Italy scouting report focussing on Jake Polledri and Carlo Canna as well as a ref report and a look at Scotland’s winning streak against the Italians.