Sunday 22 July 2018

It would leave a sour taste if we were to finish campaign with defeat - Barclay

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Richard Bath

Italy may dare to dream in Rome, but this is a match Scotland have no right losing.

The visitors have won eight of the past nine games against the Azzurri and are, says Italy skipper Sergio Parisse - the 34-year-old who wins his 134th cap today - comfortably the best Scotland side he has ever faced.

Italy, on the other hand, are a side in transition under Conor O'Shea, which has meant losing a lot.

If they are beaten today, they will have lost 17 Six Nations matches in a row, equalling the record of France either side of World War I.

Gone are the days when Italy could stick it up their jumper and grind Scotland down.

With front-five monsters like Martin Castrogiovanni a distant memory, Italy are now playing an expansive game based around talented youngsters such as full-back Matteo Minozzi and wing Mattia Bellini, while blindside Sebastian Negri and debutant openside Jake Polledri bring energy in the loose.

Yet O'Shea's project is still in its early stages, with Italy losing their four matches to date by an average of 27 points.

Today they face a side which is superior in virtually every position.

For Scotland, a failure to win in Rome will mean their campaign has been a failure. Losing their final game would leave a bitter aftertaste to Gregor Townsend's first season as Scotland coach.

"It leaves a sour taste if you go away from camp having done some really good things but having lost the final game," said captain John Barclay.

This match should avoid being the usual dull arm-wrestle of past years.

Scotland will play at high tempo, and the Azzurri plan to respond in kind.

It promises to be an open match, with Italy's recent performances suggesting they will fall off the pace in the second half unless Scotland step off the pedal, as Ireland clearly did five weeks ago when Italy ran in three second-half tries.

Verdict: Scotland

ITALY - M Minozzi; T Benvenuti, G Bisegni, T Castello, M Bellini; T Allan, M Violi; A Lovotti, L Ghiraldini, S Ferrari; A Zanni, S Negri; D Budd, J Polledri, S Parisse (capt). Reps: O Fabiani, N Quaglio, T Pasquali, A Steyn, G Licata, G Palazzani, C Canna, J Hayward.

SCOTLAND - S Hogg; T Seymour, H Jones, N Grigg, S Maitland; F Russell, G Laidlaw; G Reid, F Brown, WP Nel; T Swinson, Jonny Gray; J Barclay (capt), Hamish Watson, R Wilson.

Reps: S McInally, J Bhatti, Z Fagerson, R Gray, D Denton, A Price, P Horne, B Kinghorn.

  • Italy v Scotland, Live, TV3/BBC 1, 12.30

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport