Date: 19th March 2011
Time: 14.30 kick off
Venue: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
This is the last chance Scotland has to win a game. Starting the competition with an impressive performance against France, their form took a nosedive that they are still struggling to turn around. Moray Low loses his spot to Geoff Cross, after some poor performances in the scrum, and this will be Cross’ first start in an international for 2 years.
After the England game there were several injuries to be monitored throughout the week, most notably Kelly Brown, who was taken off concussed after taking a hit from England’s Matt Banahan, however Brown has passed all of the protocols and is cleared as fit to start, retaining his number 8 shirt. Captain Alistair Kellock has managed to shake off an ankle injury and is ready to lead his team out to finish what has been a disappointing campaign for the Scottish side on a high.
Italian coach Nick Mallet has made 6 six changes to the side which stunned everyone last weekend by beating the French. The team will be riding a wave of confidence coming into this game, and they have won the last three out of four encounters between the teams.
Martin Castrogiovanni is the only front row player to survive from the game against France, with Perugini and Ghiraldini starting alongside him. The very Italian sounding Paul Derbyshire earns his first start in the competition in the number 7 jersey whilst Alberto Sgarbi and Kris Burton replace centre Gonzalo Garcia and fly half Luciano Orquera respectively. The final change sees lock Quintin Geldenhuys come off of the bench and into the starting XV.
No doubt this team will throw everything they have at this game in an effort to maintain their spot above Scotland on the table.
What to expect:
This should be an excellent match of attrition. Both teams will be looking to win big, and with it being their last game in the tournament, expect them to throw everything and the kitchen sink at attempts to win.
Hopefully Scotland will expand their game out to take full advantage of the darting speed of Evans, and get plenty of men in the ruck, like they did last week to secure plenty of turnover ball and counter the strength of the Italian forwards.
Italy will dig in deep like they did with the French, and take as many opportunities as they can. Castrogiovanni relishes physical encounters, and they will be looking to make the most of any weaknesses in the Scottish scrum.
All Eyes On:
Ruaridh Jackson: Despite a shaky start in the game against Ireland, Jackson really turned it around against the English, and it shows Robinson’s faith in his game that he has continued with him at number 10. A skilled playmaker for Glasgow Warriors Jackson will be crucial in gaining Scotland territory with his kicking. However he is not afraid to run with the ball in hand and can be very swift when space opens up.
Gonzalo Javier Canale: Taking his usual spot at number 13 eyes will be on Canale to get the ball through any spaces in the Scottish line. Another Italian player who plays his club rugby in France, Canale has shown his skill and playing flair throughout the competition. He crossed the line for Italy against Wales, and is certainly a key cog in the Italian back line. Expect more of the same from him, as the Italians will certainly be looking to build up the points in this game.
Head to Head: Geoff Cross vs. Martin Castrogiovanni
A relative newcomer versus the most well known figure in the Italy rugby team. Castro trumps Cross with international caps; 41 to Cross’s 4. This battle of the props will be a crucial part of the match, as the game could well be won and lost at the scrum. Cross did bring a degree more stability to the front row in the game against England, and will be looking to capitalise on this from the word go, pushing to make himself the first choice number 3 in Andy Robinson’s team. That said I do think that the international experience, not to mention the height and weight advantage, that Castro has over Cross will see this head to head won by the Italian prop.
Last Year’s Result:
The Scots travelled to Rome midway through the competition, and lost. Italy 16 – 12 Scotland
Sunny intervals, high of 8°C light wind.
If you are in Scotland on Saturday there are still tickets available for this match, which should prove to be a good one. The Italians have the heavier and more experienced front row, and Scotland have struggled with theirs this competition, and I think that the scrum will be a key area in determining who wins the game.
That being said the Scots are never more dangerous then when they are written off, and will come onto the pitch with a very different mind-set to that of previous games. I think it will be a close call, with the Scots edging it over the Italians by 3.