Fan’s view: Carelessness is costing Scotland but a bonus point win in Italy should be within their grasp

Anyone remember Peter Horne’s missed penalty punt to touch against Italy at Murrayfield in 2015? I do.

Hooker Stuart McInally is back in the Scotland starting XV. Picture: Paul Devlin / SNS
Hooker Stuart McInally is back in the Scotland starting XV. Picture: Paul Devlin / SNS

Scotland playing in red shirts had won the penalty from a scrum on their own line with the clock on 76minutes. Horne just had to find a decent but mainly a safe touch. He couldn’t.

The Italians were thus handed one last chance to have a crack at the winning score. A fast-paced Italian rolling maul was desperately pulled down on the goal line and referee George Clancy rightly awarded a penalty try. Sergio Parisse was overcome with emotion, lying prostrate on the Murrayfield turf.

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Stuart Hogg started that day (the only one of Scotland’s run-on XV this Saturday to do so).

We’re led to believe by some that Scotland are a better team now than they were back then. This is impossible to swallow. The carelessness of the current team is costing them wins. Taking care of the ball when it matters most seems beyond them. Opponents are scoring too easily on often rare forays into Scotland’s 22 after periods when the Scots have dominated the ball but have little or nothing to show for it. What’s more, the opposition know this.

The Italians always fancy it against Scotland.

They think they have got more than a sniff and can rattle Scotland, especially in Rome where it promises to be intensely physical from the first whistle.

Italy can boast a world class winger in Matteo Minozzi, a lethal finisher.

They also have a top drawer flanker in Gloucester’s Jake Polledri. There are definitely tries in this Italian team, they scored three against France in an entertaining encounter in the last round. The Italians are currently playing stand-offs at both 10 and 12 with the able Carlo Canna picked at inside-centre. He is usually at stand-off at Zebre and tomorrow he again plays outside Tommaso Allan who is stand-off at Benetton.

South African Franco Smith is Italy’s interim head coach and is an accomplished former stand-off himself who looks to play an open game. Smith knows Italian rugby very well and is fluent in 
Italian.

His own international debut was in December 1997 as a substitute versus Scotland at Murrayfield in our record ever Test loss of 68-10 (only 14-3 at half time). Gregor Townsend started at stand-off for Scotland.

The changes to the Scottish pack should add some dynamism. Stuart McInally has a rare turn of pace and eye for the gap. Let’s just hope he can nail the basics too and recapture his pre-Rugby World Cup form.

Ben Toolis offers more as a carrier and off-loader than Jonny Gray. The whole bench looks stronger, with the all the substitutes having something that they can bring to the party when they take the field.

A bonus point win should be well within Scotland’s capabilities. This will be one of the three wins in this year’s championship that the head coach needs.

Follow Alisdair Hogg on Twitter @ajshogg

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