Cotter has work to do after ‘steal’ in Turin

Scotland centre Matt Scott is brought down by a tackle from Italy's Marcello Violi. Picture: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty
Scotland centre Matt Scott is brought down by a tackle from Italy's Marcello Violi. Picture: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty
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RUGBY has made huge strides in Italy over the last decade or so but it still has some way to go to match the popularity of the only sport that matters in this ever-traditional country.

The main sports paper Gazetta dello Sport did well to commit almost one entire page of its paper to preview this match but you had to wade through 35 other pages devoted to football before you found it.

That is what rugby is up against in Italy, so the prospect of facing a cobbled-together Scotland squad with five new caps in all was not one that would have fazed the Azzurri.

They always feel that they can beat Scotland and nothing that happened last night in Turin is likely to change their minds on that score.

The Italians dominated many of the big collisions only to see Scotland steal the victory with a try in the final ten minutes and only after going behind at the start of the final quarter, an insult that appeared to spur the Scots into action.

“It was a hard game, a physical game,” responded coach Vern Cotter who conceded that the Italians could have won this match. “And we made it hard on ourselves. I think we had better possession in the second half and better field position and we managed to accelerate, get our hands on the ball and get a couple of breaks at the right end.

“We found a way to win and I think that is important and it wasn’t an easy game of rugby to play. They are a tough team, they are very physical.

“To be honest, I am happy with a few things but there are obviously things to work on.”

If it wasn’t for bad luck Grant Gilchirst would have none at all. After breaking his arm on the eve of the Six Nations, the big lock came down with a dicky tummy yesterday morning just before he was scheduled to lead his team onto the field and was ruled out.

It didn’t help Scotland’s preparations for this match, but Jim Hamilton is a handy replacement and thankfully there were no serious injury concerns that could have resulted in Alasdair Strokosch, Gilchrist’s stand-in skipper, also replacing the long lock in the second row of the scrum.

“I thought Stroker did well,” said Cotter of his skipper. “Grant was taken sick this morning and he was taken out.

“Jim [Hamilton] started the game and we had Kevin Bryce come on to the bench so we had a bit of a change around, but I thought the guys kept putting in a reasonable performance, not a perfect one by any means, and we managed to get hands on the ball and we didn’t force our play.

“It could have gone either way so we have to be honest about it.”

Scotland have it all to do again when the two teams meet in the return fixture next Saturday at BT Murrayfield.