RBS 6 Nations Preview: Scotland vs Italy, Murrayfield, Saturday 14:30
Prior to last weekend's matches this game would have warranted a preview similar to this one, but it seems that this year's Six Nations has decided to turn us all into fools in terms of results and performances. This is great for rugby fans, but it does mean that I have to write more and put extra thought into the blog. Ups and downs, eh?
Despite losing last week, Scotland look better than they have for a while, and in Stuart Hogg they have an attacking threat that they have not had for some time. This week, he deserves the likes of Sean Lamont, an established line-breaker, to show more than he did last week when he appeared to channel the injured Nick De Luca out of sympathy. It is interesting that Brunel has brought Canale back in for Italy, it seems he is expecting the real Lamont this week. But more than all that, Ruaridh Jackson needs to look more like an international 10 and less like an nervous child on too much ritalin.
Italy will be targeting this as a win. A team like Italy will know which games they can hope to win, and even before the brilliant result and performance against France last week this game would have been on that list. The best thing about the win last week was what a complete game they played; they are no more the lumpen, hard forwards' team who try desperately to keep the ball away from the latest pair of basket cases selected at half back.
Luciano Orquera, a player previously so bad he looked like a volunteer from a mental health charity, is now a man who can play the game and he will want to stamp his new-found surprising authority and organisation on a game away from Rome.
Italy may just have enough in the backs to score, and enough up front to shut Scotland down.
B&M Prediction: Italy by 3
Spotter's Badge: Johnnie Beattie runs with the ball in one-hand, causing the commentators to become giddy at his technique and style, moments before Zanni crunches him and the ball flies away like a greased ping-pong ball in a gale.
Scotland : 15-Stuart Hogg, 14-Sean Maitland, 13-Sean Lamont, 12-Matt Scott, 11-Tim Visser, 10-Ruaridh Jackson, 9-Greig Laidlaw; 1-Ryan Grant, 2-Ross Ford, 3-Euan Murray, 4-Richie Gray, 5-Jim Hamilton, 6-Robert Harley, 7-Kelly Brown (capt), 8-Johnnie Beattie
Replacements: 16-Pat MacArthur, 17-Moray Low, 18-Geoff Cross, 19-Alastair Kellock, 20-David Denton, 21-Henry Pyrgos, 22-Duncan Weir, 23-Max Evans
Italy : 15-Andrea Masi, 14-Giovanbattista Venditti, 13-Tommaso Benvenuti, 12-Gonzalo Canale, 11-Luke McLean, 10-Luciano Orquera, 9-Tobias Botes; 1-Andrea Lo Cicero, 2-Leonardo Ghiraldini, 3-Martin Castrogiovanni, 4-Quintin Geldenhuys, 5-Francesco Minto, 6-Alessandro Zanni, 7-Simone Favaro, 8-Sergio Parisse (capt)
Replacements: 16-Davide Giazzon, 17-Alberto De Marchi, 18-Lorenzo Cittadini, 19-Antonio Pavanello, 20-Paul Derbyshire, 21-Kris Burton, 22-Gonzalo GarciaTweet
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