Saturday 24 March 2018

Numbers tell a story as Italy and Scotland fight to avoid wooden spoon

Italy's Sergio Parisse. Photo: Getty Images
Italy's Sergio Parisse. Photo: Getty Images

Robin Scott Eliott

Sergio Parisse has always stood out, the Italian Atlas, carrying his nation's slim hopes on broad shoulders.

The omnipresent No 8 will be to the fore again in Rome this afternoon but even before the players take to the field, he stands above the rest, only this is not a record to be proud of no matter how much it also embarrasses Scotland.

No player on either side has won more Six Nations games than the Italian captain. That the figure stands at nine from 52 attempts says everything about where these two teams have found themselves over much of the past decade.

Scotland's most successful - a term used loosely - player is hooker Ross Ford, who has won eight of his 47 Six Nations games. Five of the starting Scots and five of their Italian counterparts have never experienced victory in the tournament.

Jonny Gray may be a Lion in the making but he has lost all eight of his Six Nations outings. The two No 9s, Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw and Edoardo Gori, key men today, tot up seven wins from a joint tally of 44 games.


In comparison, the two captains at Twickenham today have returned 29 wins in 48 games for Rory Best and 27 in 37 for Dylan Hartley.

This is the Six Nations second division, and both sides are desperate to win this annual wooden spoon decider. "We are both in the same position," said Scotland prop Moray Low.

The desperation is topped up with no little frustration as both believe, with some justification, they are improving.

Italy could have won in France on day one, Scotland can point to their World Cup campaign, one bad call from reaching the last four.

The injury to Carlo Canna is a notable blow to the home side's chances. His replacement Kelly Haimona is more limited and Scotland have an edge behind the scrum.

Scotland's last Six Nations win came in Rome, via a last-minute drop goal two years ago. Italy's last in the Six Nations was at Murrayfield last year, via a last-minute penalty try.

"We are anticipating it coming down to a few points and a couple of plays at the end of the game," said Scotland coach Vern Cotter, who has shuffled his bench with that in mind - hence the experienced Low's recall after a couple of years on the fringes. (© Independent News Service)

Italy - D Odiete; L Sarto, M Campagnaro, G Garcia, M Bellini; K Haimona, E Gori; A Lovotti, L Ghiraldini, L Cittadini; Ma Fuser, J Furno; F Minto, A Zanni, S Parisse. Reps: D Giazzon, M Zanusso, M Castrogiovanni, V Bernabo, A Van Schalkwyk, G Palazzani, E Padovani, A Pratichetti.

Scotland - S Hogg; T Seymour, M Bennett, D Taylor, T Visser; F Russell, G Laidlaw (capt); A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel, R Gray, J Gray, J Barclay, J Hardie, D Denton. Reps: S McInally, R Sutherland, M Low, T Swinson, R Wilson, S Hidalgo-Clyne, P Horne, S Lamont.

Ref - J Peyper (SA)

Italy v Scotland, Live, RTE/ITV, 2.0

Independent News Service

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