Scotland v Italy: Six Nations 2021, Match Preview pt II – head to heads

There has been a fairly high level of turnover across the Scottish and Italian sides since their previous Six Nations’ meeting at Murrayfield in 2019. Just six of the dark blues starting XV also started two years ago. For the Azzurri, Sebastian Negri is the only survivor from the team that kicked off that 33-20 defeat.

Tale of the tape

BACKS
63   Tries   21
94kg
   Average weight   95kg
208   Total caps   89
106   
6N caps   55
27.7   Average age   24.5

FORWARDS
888kg   Pack weight   875kg
9   Tries   2
182   Total caps  145
80   
6N caps   80
27.2   Average age   25.5

SUBSTITUTES
134   Total caps   169
62   
6N caps   85
13
   Tries   7
28.3   Average age   25.4

7 Scotland changes from last Test (v Ireland)

  • 15/14/10 – Graham for Russell with Maitland moving to 15 and Hogg moving to 10 [-]
  • 13 – Jones for Harris [=]
  • 9 – Steele for Price [-]
  • 2 – Cherry for Turner [-]
  • 3 – Fagerson for Nel [+]
  • 4 – Skinner for Cummings [=]
  • 5 – Gilchrist for Gray [-]

SCOTLAND
15 Sean Maitland
14 Darcy Graham
13 Huw Jones
12 Sam Johnson
11 Duhan van der Merwe
10 Stuart Hogg (c)
9 Scott Steele

1 Rory Sutherland
2 David Cherry
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Sam Skinner
5 Grant Gilchrist
6 Jamie Ritchie
7 Hamish Watson
8 Matt Fagerson

16 George Turner
17 Jamie Bhatti
18 Simon Berghan
19 Alex Craig
20 Nick Haining
21 Ali Price
22 Jaco van der Walt
23 Chris Harris

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ADV Scotland
EVEN
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
EVEN
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy

ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
EVEN
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
EVEN

ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
EVEN
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland

ITALY
15 Edoardo Padovani
14 Mattia Bellini
13 Juan Ignacio Brex
12 Federico Mori
11 Montanna Ioane
10 Paolo Garbisi
9 Stephen Varney

1 Danilo Fischetti
2 Luca Bigi (c)
3 Marco Riccioni
4 Niccolo Cannone
5 Federico Ruzza
6 Sebastian Negri
7 Johan Meyer
8 Michele Lamaro

16 Gianmarco Lucchesi
17 Andrea Lovotti
18 Giosue Zilocchi
19 Riccardo Favretto
20 Maxime Mbanda
21 Marcello Violi
22 Carlo Canna
23 Marco Zanon


Overall

Backs – advantage Scotland

The Italians get more experienced the further out the backline you go – but it’s that raw 9-10-12 axis (average age 20.4, combined caps 23) that they are pinning their hopes on. This is a long term project for the Azzurri so Scotland need to demonstrate some of the ruthlessness that was a bit lacking against Wales and Ireland and ensure they take advantage of any wobbly moments from their young opponents.

It’s possible that this might be the only time this lineup in the Scottish backs is spotted at Test level. It is an intriguing prospect though, with attacking flair to burn. They just need the ball…

Forwards – advantage Scotland

Scotland are missing their top picks at hooker and in the second row but can still turn out a strong-looking pack. It’s up front where the performance has to be built – that’s where the Italian side have struggled to impose themselves in their previous encounters.

The return of Zander Fagerson should add some power to the carrying game. A performance like the one seen against England should see some serious metres after contact being made. Once the Italian defence is on the back foot there should be clear opportunities for both backs and forwards to exploit.

Subs – advantage Scotland

Ali Price has started all 12 Tests Scotland have played since Greig Laidlaw retired. Coming off the bench on Saturday will present the scrum half with an interesting chance to maybe revert back to his roots as an up tempo 9 and play a bit more off the cuff.

Miscellany

This will be the first time since 2003 that Italy have travelled to Murrayfield for a Six Nations’ match without Sergio Parisse in the back row. The Scottish number 8 for the game in 2003 was Simon Taylor. When that game was played current Scotland number 8, Matt Fagerson, was just 4 years old…

– Alex Craig will be the 35th debutant of the Townsend era if he comes off the bench on Saturday. The Gloucester man will also be the 10th player from Scotland’s squad at the 2016 World Rugby u20s Championship to win a full cap.

– With Scott Cummings’ streak of appearances ending at 20, Chris Harris will take over the longest active run of consecutive matches with the game against Italy making it 18 in a row if he plays some part as a replacement.

George Turner has scored more Test tries than the combined tally of all 13 Italian forwards who have been listed to play on Saturday (6 for George, 4 for the Italians).

– None of the Italian 23 have experienced a Six Nations’ win (including Andrea Lovotti who has played 25 times in the tournament). 12 of the Azzurri’s squad have yet to play in an Italian victory in any Test match. Scotland simply cannot afford to be the team that Italy end their losing streak against.

When he's not watching Glasgow, Scotland (and even Edinburgh) Kevin can usually be found with his head in a spreadsheet working out the most obscure Scottish rugby related stat he can put out on Twitter.
Follow Kevin on twitter @topofthemoonGW