Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Italy v Scotland: Six Nations 2022, Match Preview pt II – head to heads

Italy v Scotland
pic © Scottish Rugby Blog

Eleven of Scotland’s XV played against Italy at Murrayfield last season as did 8 of the Italian starters. The home side’s changes from the last time these sides met in Rome are considerably more drastic though. Callum Braley and Niccolo Cannone are the only returning starters from two years ago and overall there are 18 new faces in the 23 from an encounter that saw Scotland emerge with a 17 – 0 victory.

Tale of the tape

Tries   58
   Average weight   93kg
Total caps   285
6N caps   146
Average age   28.7

   Pack weight   893kg
Tries   18
Total caps   212
6N caps   92
Average age   27.3

Tries   22
96   Total caps   174
6N caps   80
Average age   28.2

5 changes to Scotland starting XV from last Test (v France)

  • 12 – Johnson for Tuipulotu [=]
  • 11 – Steyn for van der Merwe []
  • 2 – Turner for McInally [+]
  • 6/7 – Watson for Haining with Darge moving to 6 [+]
  • 8 – M. Fagerson for Bradbury [+]



Edoardo Padovani
Pierre Bruno
Ignacio Brex
Leonardo Marin
Montanna Ioane
Paolo Garbisi
Callum Braley

Danilo Fischetti
Giacomo Nicotera
Pietro Ceccarelli
Niccolo Cannone
Federico Ruzza
G Pettinelli
M Lamaro (c)
Toa Halafihi

Luca Bigi
Ivan Nemer
Giosue Zilocchi
David Sisi
Manuel Zuliani
Alessandro Fusco
Marco Zanon
Ange Capuozzo

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

ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland

ADV Italy
ADV Italy
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland
ADV Scotland


Stuart Hogg (c)
Darcy Graham
Chris Harris
Sam Johnson
Kyle Steyn
Finn Russell
Ali Price

Pierre Schoeman
George Turner
Zander Fagerson
Sam Skinner
Grant Gilchrist
Rory Darge
Hamish Watson
Matt Fagerson

Stuart McInally
Allan Dell
WP Nel
Jamie Hodgson
Magnus Bradbury
Ben Vellacott
Adam Hastings
Sione Tuipulotu


Backs – advantage Scotland

Italy’s backs have maintained a perfectly creditable (well, for backs anyway) tackle completion rate of 84% during the championship so far. The issue has been the sheer volume of defensive work they’ve had to get through – 200 tackles attempted – compared to 113 for Scotland – leading to 32 missed and regular scoring opportunities for their opponents.

They won’t have to face the dark blues’ ultimate tackle breaking machine though with Duhan van der Merwe banned. The giant winger has had the number 11 jersey pretty much locked down since he made his debut in Autumn 2020. With Scotland’s Lions also unlikely to travel to Argentina this summer, opportunity knocks over the next five Tests for other wide men and Kyle Steyn gets first dibs. His work on kick chase, and in particular on kick offs, could provide some potent attacking positions for the Scots.

Forwards – advantage Scotland

After losing both hookers in quick succession against Ireland, the Italians have called up a rookie (Giacomo Nicotera will make his Test debut after just two starts for Benetton) and a veteran (former skipper Luca Bigi has more caps than anyone else in the Azzurri’s 23). Interestingly they will start with the new boy and then introduce the 40 capper from the bench – a decision probably based on this being Bigi’s first game at any level for nearly three months.

In the head to head contest, Scotland have again rotated their number 2 and number 16 and this time it’s George Turner’s turn to start. As mentioned in Part 1 of the preview there’s a strong chance that there will be plenty of lineouts so all four hookers are likely to have a big role to play. When he gets on, Stuart McInally will be looking to add to his record try tally with his first ever score against Italy. The Scottish maul will need to step up if they are to get back to their previous level of success with lineout drive scores.

Subs – advantage Scotland

Italy have gone with a 5 forwards / 3 backs split for the first time in this season’s Six Nations. Their forward subs have averaged 27 minutes played each (the same as Scotland) with a sixth replacement in those previous games allowing them to rotate more of their pack but they have chosen to eschew that option this time around.

The veteran WP Nel apart, the dark blues’ bench is built to lift the pace ever higher. This one could get a bit frantic with both sides desperate for a win. Adding Ben Vellacott in particular into the mix could make for an explosive final quarter if the game starts to open up.


Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Giovanni Pettinelli, Michele Lamaro, Leonardo Marin and Ivan Nemer all played in Benetton’s victories against both Edinburgh and Glasgow in the URC this season with Marin scoring the winning points with time expired on each occasion.

– Between summer 2018 and the 2020 Six Nations, Allan Dell played in 22 of Scotland’s 24 Tests. This will be his first appearance for the national side since before the pandemic.

– The 13 forwards in the Italian squad have combined for just a single Test try – recalled hooker, Luca Bigi, crossed against Scotland at Murrayfield last season.

Stuart Hogg will play in his 50th Six Nations’ match. Since his debut in 2012, Hogg has featured in 94% of the fixtures Scotland have played in the championship.

– In their last eight home Six Nations’ fixtures Italy have led for 2 minutes of game time (0.3%); been level for 58 minutes (9.1%); and behind for 580 minutes (90.6%). The 22 minutes it took Scotland to score in 2020 represents the longest period of Italy avoiding being behind during those matches.

– Looking back just four years to when Scotland beat Italy 29 – 27 in Rome the only returning players of the 46 from the matchday squads are:

  • Italy – nobody.
  • Scotland – Hogg, Russell, Price, Z. Fagerson, Watson, McInally and Nel.

– There isn’t a single player in the Italian squad who has experienced winning a Six Nations’ match. The pressure is on Scotland to keep things that way but their hosts will be throwing everything at this one…

27 Responses

    1. Yep Brex has impressed in both defence, where his tackling has been mostly dominant and attack either as a runner, a decoy or doing the Māori sidestep. Excellent player.

    2. Harris is a starting lion.

      Brex is fine but Harris is definitely a superior player.

  1. Darge and Watson baby! Puts a lot of pressure on our tight five for set piece parity, but I’m so excited to see them play together.

    Good to see Fagerson back too, it really felt in the first game and a half like he was ready to make the 8 shirt his.

    Don’t want to wish my life away, but we’ll see Ritchie, Darge and Fagerson hitting their absolute prime at the 2027 world cup. Assuming we’re not underwater by then, that is gonna be a sight to see.

    Good to see Hastings back too. The patience and coolness he showed at the end of the France game last year is exactly what we missed at the end of the last couple of matches.

  2. When did Dell last play for Scotland ? I see we are playing for a cup tomorrow , the Cuttitta cup.

  3. Off topic – but watching tonight’s Wales France game and the stadium is only 2/3 full…. Am I missing something?

    1. Sold about 60,000 tickets. First Friday night game in 5 years which are unpopular as hard for people to travel, French fans struggle to travel for it, covid hangover and tickets over £100. So…killing the golden goose.

  4. think Wales picking up point makes 5th place almost inevitable for us

    The welsh offer very little attack-wise but know how to hang on in there

    1. And you know what alythman, we would deserve 5th place at this moment, and that’s saying something considering how poor Wales and England have compared to there normal standards.

      We had pretty much a full strength squad to pick from at the start… what has went wrong? we are worse than we were at the 2019 world cup.

  5. Would “we” rather lose like Wales, a no risk pragmatic game???
    Anyhow on Roker beach, no much sunrise to capture my attention so………
    Today is very interesting, in the past there was a genuine hope that Hogg & Russell would sprinkle their magic but that “magic” has been conspicuous by it absence for a while, I assume its a combination of the opposition “knowing” how to stop them and a bit more of a defensive approach (defensive centres). A Lightweight and very mobile back row means we need quick front foot ball and field position. Turnovers are gold. Often I think that playing 2 7s is better on paper than in practise.Italy despite their losses have looked good in patches and their big physical pack and their “knowledge” that they can beat us makes it a fascinating game. Hogg should’ve been practicing 50 22s, they are a brilliant attacking opportunity.

    1. Go back and watch Scotland vs NZ 2017. Hoggy was lacerating and Finn was a jinks menace ball in hand. Neither are currently as light on their feet and have lost a little of their greatest weapon in my opinion. Finn could simply lose a few pounds… Hopefully a big focus on fitness in the lead up to RWC 2023

      1. Indeed Matto, watched the game in Monypelliers pub, a truely thrilling game…… and as you say Hogg and Russell to the fore. Russell plays very well for Racing so think it’s the coaching/environment rather than Finn. Hogg is very well defended these days and maybe nicked up loosing a yard????

  6. 110 caps within the Italian forwards but not one try. That’s atrocious. Maybe today they will break that duck.

  7. Definitely nervous for today but really we have so much more quality than them all over the park we should win even being out of sorts.

    I wonder if our attacking labours are due to the new attacking coach bedding in/not being up to it. By now whatever changes he was introducing should have started bearing fruit really.

    I’d like to see the team win with minimum of drama, they don’t need fireworks just hold ball and dictate momentum of game and build an early lead. I expect we’ll see something much edgier though as give the Italians a sniff of a result and they’ll rise in confidence and then we’ll have a problem on our hands.

    1. You are right to be nervous , who would not be, we have the talent, I Just think they never have a plan B and do make on field decisions to change, as there are consequences. Just an opinion based on very little other than observation and opinion.

  8. Excellent preview as per, Kevin.

    Italy stats are pretty wild: 14 tries in their entire 23, half of which were scored by Padovani more than 2 years ago. In fact, looks like the players here have only managed one try between them since the Scotland Italy game last year.

    They’ve got a good young team but that can’t bring a whole lot of confidence to the squad.

    For Scotland, the team looks good. Hastings and Johnson recalled is the right move at the moment, happy to see Vellacott get a run out, Darge and Watson promises to be a lot of fun and Steyn gets a well-deserved run-out. Not sure a bench of Dell & Nel is where we want to be a year out from the world cup though.

    Would love a nice, comfortable, stress-free victory but have been watching Scotland long enough not to be so naive. Think something more like 23-15 is about to be served up.

  9. It almost feels like the France game two weeks ago except we are the team being gifted tries this time.

  10. Harris seems to be doing ok in attack. Just worry we get isolated too often at the breakdown

  11. I wish world rugby would remove box kicking. incredibly frustrating to see Price constantly box kicking possession way. Is this really what rugby should be? Look what happens when we run with the ball.

  12. Nice to get a decent score and win properly against the Italians …

    but enough of an error strewn first half to know a decent side would have punished that.

    Fagerson at 8 set the tone with his turnovers in the first half when the Italians were looking competitive.

    On balance this game says very little.

    Russell out of sorts – not playing badly, just far from being the best ten in the world – which he is when he plays for Racing or Lions or Scotland in previous games.

    Shout out to Johnson for his try too.

    This is all a bit meh. Are we spoiled, maybe. England used beating a poor Italy to re-set and congratulated themselves back into contenders. Maybe we should do the same, but Ireland are licking their lips.

  13. So many errors. Going to be a hard watch v Ireland, think an absolute thumping is on the cards..gulp.

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