Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Italy v Scotland: Autumn Nations Cup 2020, Match Preview pt II


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

Tries   40
   Average weight   95kg
Total caps   187
Average age   27.4

   Pack weight   897kg
Tries   21
Total caps   211
Average age   27.2

Tries   16
233   Total caps   99
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 [=]


Matteo Minozzi
Jacopo Trulla
Marco Zanon
Carlo Canna
Mattia Bellini
Paolo Garbisi
Marcello Violi

Danilo Fischetti
Luca Bigi (c)
Giosue Zilocchi
Marco Lazzaroni
Niccolo Cannone
Sebastian Negri
Abraham Steyn
Jake Polledri

Leo Ghiraldini
Simone Ferrari
Pietro Ceccarelli
Johan Meyer
Maxime Mbanda
Stephen Varney
Tomasso Allan
Federico Mori

ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland

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

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

Stuart Hogg (c)
Darcy Graham
Chris Harris
Sam Johnson
Duhan van der Merwe
Duncan Weir
Ali Price

Rory Sutherland
Stuart McInally
Zander Fagerson
Scott Cummings
Jonny Gray
Jamie Ritchie
Hamish Watson
Blade Thomson

George Turner
Oli Kebble
Willem Nel
Sam Skinner
Nick Haining
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne
James Lang
Blair Kinghorn


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 8Zebre 10Exiles 5.
  • Scotland – Edinburgh 9Glasgow 6Exiles 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.

74 Responses

  1. It saddens me to see the SRU sell out the mental health of a nation to Amazon prime.
    When the BBC has supported grass roots rugby since it began. Shame on you SRU , SHAME £££££££££

    1. 1. This wasn’t just the SRU, Amazon bought the rights to the whole tournament.

      2. The unions desperately need a cash injection since they’ve been heavily hit by the covid crisis and we still have no idea when fans will be allowed back in.

      3. Amazon is free for the first month so you can watch all the games, cancel your subscription and not spend a penny.

    2. The SRU haven’t sold the rights to Scotland games in the Autumn Nations Cup to Amazon. The tournament organisers (of whom Scotland are just one) sold them collectively. In 2019, ticket sales brought in £15.7 million, how do you propose compensating for that loss of income?

      1. Out of all the options to earn some revenue from these games in the absence of fans, Amazon is by far the least worse as its cheap, doesn’t require annual contracts and many people already have it.

        The painful truth is the 6N is almost certainly leaving FTA because of the impact of covid, it’s not really an SRU thing it’s the new financial reality.

  2. Folks, as an aside, congrats to the Scottish footballers on their victory last night. Hope this encourages our rugby players tomorrow

    1. Bloody Troll! Keep off our blog!
      Only kidding – a big win for our roundball compatriots. History being made in both codes.

  3. I’d be disappointed if we didn’t win by at least 15 points with those teams.
    Keep it tight for first 50 and wear them down up front. Then unleash that awesome back 3.

  4. Johnson v Canna will be an interesting battle. I believe Johnson is a more natural 12 whereas Canna is a converted stand-off. Both will be critical to getting their back-lines going. I suspect if Johnson gets good service then his running lines might be too much for Canna but we’ll have to wait and see. Expect Canna to do quite a bit of kicking which might suit us. Apparently the pitch is quite narrow so we might need to come through the middle more than looking for the outside.

  5. france vs fiji match called off, just announced on bbc. spate of cases in Fiji camp that could affect the rest of their games i.e. including ours!!

    1. Imagine the best France get out of that is an arranged draw which puts us in good shape to top the group! But big blow to Vern and the Fiji camp, hope they all come out of it okay.

      1. real shame if Fiji drop out – my second team after scotland. France vs Fiji would be a good tonic to the likely dirge of Ireland v Wales

      2. Ireland a different side with Gibson-Park at s/h. Speed from breakdown great. End of Connor Murray … I doubt it! Lowe a live wire. Wales poor

    2. Squad that was originally named to play v Fiji will be taking on Scotland instead apparently as well.

      So we’ll be seeing Dupont, Ntamack, Ollivon and co still on a high after their last couple of games. Will be a proper test to see how far we’ve come

    1. Doris has been in so many hypothetical Lions squads, yet he’s done absolutely nothing at international level. Just goes to show the power of hype.

      1. Yeah, he was. Tells you everything you need to know about the quality on offer. Abysmal. Ryan and Tipuric were comfortably better. Please, tell me what he’s done for Ireland to warrant the hype…

    2. Wales are poor, Ireland aren’t amazing either though – Wales looking the better team in the second half.

      Sexton and Murray’s days must be numbered.
      Lowe is a very good player.

      1. Gatland is going to have to rely a lot of banked credit to maintain his usual ratios. Vaguely related: it’s sad to see Faletau so poor. He looks like he’d struggle to get in our squad. He was the best 8 -the most compete 8 – in the world for years, but injury has robbed him of so much. I hope he can recapture his form.

        Christ alive, Raynal gave one offside penalty then gave up. What a joke. He’s a terrible ref.

  6. Amazing to see we’ve only managed 3 away wins in a row twice and not since 1927!

    I’m not sure that the game will be as easy as this write up makes it sound. The Italy games often seem to be a struggle for us. I’m never sure whether that’s them raising their game for their chance of a win or us getting our attitude wrong. I’ll be happy with any win but delighted if we manage to show some attacking flair.

    Agree TeamCam, the welsh defence seemed to be offside at every breakdown.

  7. Dreadful game Wales vs Ireland tonight. Route 1, no imagination and both teams kicking penalties for points to avoid a loss. Surely now is the time for both these sides to be blooding some of their unquestionable talents. Suits us I suppose.
    Separately and boringly, is there a record function on Amazon TV as I can’t watch tomorrow’s match live. Please excuse my technical ignorance but I’m new to it…

    1. The game will be up for a few weeks on demand afterwards. Should. Available from 17:00 GMT tomorrow, I believe.

      1. Lowe & Gibson-Park looked excellent, Wales (especially in the 1st half) were all over the place, line-out poor, beasted in the scrum, defensive line ill disciplined. Under Gatland they were horrible to play against now they really seem to be struggling to embrace the style Pivac wants to play & have they the players to play that way?

  8. Nowhere to put this so what the hell – ARGENTINA JUST WON IN NEW ZEALAND

    Outstanding. A result really to rock the rugby firmament, bravo!

    Makes SA decision to pull out of RC look a bit ridiculous. Makes World Rugby decision to seed teams for draw on world cup positions look even more short sighted.

    1. NZs reputation is fading…and no longer are they getting a free ride from officials. Their persistent offending is being punished.

      That’s 2 losses in a row…outworked and outdisciplined in both.

  9. Does anyone else feel like since the BBC aren’t showing the games they’ve just given up on their journalism of the tournament and letting the interns do it? They’ve not even bothered to post the Italy team and constantly make errors, eg saying Scotland are going for their 4th straight win when it’s their 5th etc

  10. Watched the Ireland vs Wales match, it was boring and the score line flattered Ireland’s lack lustre play.

  11. Watching pre-match and the coverage seems to be Eng vs Georgia! There’s more than enough to discuss with Its vs Sco and ‘highlights’ from yesterdays game. Poor from Prime!

    1. 100%… I clicked on what was titled Italy v Scotland n have had to listen to typical bbc or itv chat about England. Pathetic

  12. What has happened to Scotland in first quarter? No ball, scrum gone to bits, losing kicking battle. We need to get a grip quickly.

  13. We need to get a grip here, looking dangerously like one of those matches where we just didn’t turn up. Credit to Italy though they look fired up and are getting stuck in.

    1. Italy bossing the game so far and Scotland don’t look like they know how to get a handle in the game. We’ve barely been in their 22. V poor.

      Shame about Italian try – our defensive system has held up well but weir and then Graham missed the tackle and that was that.

      We’re in big trouble – need an early score to unsettle Italians otherwise they’ll cruise to victory.

  14. We’re struggling to cope with some ferocious Italian defence in the midfield. Looks like Italy want this more and are playing with passion. We look shocked that we’re not winning easily. To me that’s the coaches not preparing the team properly and happens too often with Scotland.

    We’ve had some individual moments when we’ve looked ok in attack but just a few players getting away from their support. Our defence has looked ragged however and needs to improve.

  15. We have a unique ability to just not turn up. To completely fail to turn up.

    Blade Thomson is an absolute donkey. Win or lose, he should be nowhere near a Scotland shirt again after this.

  16. Fagerson try. Let’s not **** this now, because the bed looks more like the toilet from Trainspotting in terms of how we’ve shat it.

  17. Still think Italy will retake the lead and win. All the chatter will be about them no longer fading after 60.

    If one more England fan calls us a Tier 2 nation then I am driving to Hexham and rebuilding the wall myself.

  18. Italy take the kick at the posts instead of the try and then sub off two of their most potent players. It’ll be dire if we can’t get something from here.

  19. Italy could very likely still score, they’ve been the better side all game. We need to be thinking about the fourth try bonus point. I’m not up for losing this one at the death (or at any point before).

    Where’s Ryan Christie when you need him?

    1. Italy being crafty bar stewards – no blood on Tommy Allan when he popped his knee but they brought on a blood replacement

      1. Well can’t sniff at a BP win but it was a nail-biter. We did well to dig ourselves out of a hole.

        Backrow came off a distant second, only Watson really made an impact. Turner was great when he came on, weir filled in fine except tackling.

        Harris – I just don’t see it

      2. I disagree, it looked like he slid over the medal support for the hoarding board and was then holding his knee to stop the bleeding. I expect that he’s got quite a nasty gash needing stitches after that one.

  20. Aaaaaand breathe.

    Solid away win, try bonus point. Stressful and nervy, but we did it with a depleted side – no Russell, no Hastings, no Ritchie, no Sutherland. Stick that up your dojo. Jonny Gray MotM for me, or you could just give the award collectively to Whenever We Have A Maul.

    Now to France. Which I’m…no longer looking forward to.

  21. I take back any negative comments about Weir. Played very well – dare I say it, my man of the match.

    1. Please can you clarify why? I’m still getting used to the new rules so would like to know what you spotted as being missed? I saw a lot of Italian tacklers jackaling illegally…

      1. In no expert but I though the amount of time Pearce allowed Italy to secure their own ball was completely out of kilter with the refereeing this season.

      2. Thanks Sotonsaltire – now you mention it I recall very few turnovers! Still, positive that we adapted to the game to get a bonus point win :)

  22. Stuart Hogg says it is the rugby teams turn to inspire the nation, sorry but that’s not going to happen due to the match being only on Amazon prime. Will be lucky to get a footnote mention in most newspapers tomorrow and when I tell people Scotland beat Italy they will just say “didn’t even know that they were playing”

  23. Solid win after a rough start where the Italians played well – Harris MoM for me, really shut down the Italian attack and had some good touches.

  24. A poor performance bar the last 25, Thought Cummings, Watson & Duhan done well from the starters.

    I like what i see from Turner, i think he will be competing with Mcinally for that 2nd spot soon enough.

    Sam-Hidalgo Clyne seems to bring an air of confidence coming of the bench weather its for Exeter or Scotland, a real winner.

    It’s good to see even when we are not playing to well that we are winning, that’s a really good sign, i do have concerns that we may be gaining false confidence from our win streak however, besides France we have not really played an in-form team. Next week is going to be very interesting to see where this team are at

  25. We finally adapted in the second half but felt we were taking too long to realize how the ref wanted the play.
    Italy were well up for it.
    Weir clearly not as naturally talented as either Russell or Hastings…his strength remains his kicking…that said he did improve his overall game in the second half.
    Cummings increasingly is becoming a class 2nd row at the highest level.
    Blade Thomson added nothing, yet again, and I think that experiment is over…we should focus on bringing along Bradbury Crosbie & Fagerson at this level…problem being none of them look an 8 …we are overloaded with 6 and 7s. The search for a proper 8 continues.
    McInally has gone backwards and Turner looked far better.
    Sutherland looked like he’s done his ankle which is another big blow.
    Centre while much better defensively is not the attacking threat it was a few years ago. We do look tougher to beat through the middle though and results are now coming…so maybe we need to move on from the whole Jones debate.
    SHC looks to have stepped up a few levels since moving to Exeter..looks like he could actually make it at this level now.
    Dunno what SA were thinking letting DVDM go …looks absolute class.
    Another away win and a bonus point….result.

  26. Sutherland won’t be fit. Looked like a break or very bad sprain. Ritchie should be ok, looked precautionary due to the nature of the collision.
    Personally I would prefer to start with Maitland due to his defensive nous, which would mean Graham on the bench.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion