Scotland have lost their first two Six Nations matches this year, stretching their winless run in the tournament to nine games. On Saturday they head to Rome desperate to beat Italy and kickstart their campaign.
Here we list four reasons to be optimistic that the long, agonising wait can finally be put to bed.
1. We beat Italy more than we lose to them....just
Compared to the likes of England, who have beaten Italy in all 22 meetings, Scotland’s record against the Azzurri is poor. However, they remain the one nation we have a winning Six Nations record over since 2000, with nine wins and seven defeats.
Scotland won their last match in Rome when Duncan Weir’s last-gasp drop goal sealed a 21-20 win and beat the Italians twice last summer in World Cup warm-ups, including a 16-12 victory in Turin.
2. Italy got a “hiding” in their last game
Okay so they were in the game for 50 minutes two weeks ago but fell away badly at the end and lost 40-9, which probably does equate to the “hiding” promised by England coach Eddie Jones in the build-up.
They ran under new management France close in the first game too and there has been talk about how improved Italy are but they were pretty insipid in the World Cup and a repeat of Scotland’s Cardiff performance should get the job done.
3. Centre of attention
One of Italy’s most exciting players is the Exeter centre Michele Campagnaro but Scotland will be confident their pairing of Mark Bennett and Duncan Taylor can edge the midfield battle. Bennett was one of the stand-out performers at the World Cup and, after returning from injury and getting back up to speed in the first couple of games, is due a big performance.
Saracens centre Taylor was excellent against Wales and it looks like a partnership that can do some damage.
4. Scrum time
Italy seem to be opening up their game a bit but will always rely on their key strengths in the forwards and set-piece battle. In Al Dickinson, Ross Ford and WP Nel, Scotland have a front row that can stand up to the Italians in the scrum.
South African referee Jaco Peyper’s interpretation will be key but Nel will be able to offer a few words in Afrikaans to convince him that the Scots are winning the battle.
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