Scotland seek Six Nations redemption in Italy World Cup warm-up
Nine of the 23 meetings between Six Nations also-rans Italy and Scotland have been settled by a margin of one to five points, including each of the last three encounters.
Two of those, but most significantly the last one held in mainland Europe, were Scottish victories, albeit under different management. Coral offer an odds-on 8/13 price on Vern Cotter’s side earning some redemption with a win here after a woeful Six Nations campaign.
Paired in Pool B with Samoa and South Africa among others at the forthcoming Rugby World Cup, there is a real danger that Scotland shall struggle to get out of their group come the autumn after what has been a dismal 2015 for rugby in that nation.
Cotter’s calendar year has seen him preside over six straight defeats, the latest inflicted by Ireland 28-22. When punters consider this complete absence of form, which left the Scots holding the Six Nations wooden spoon after a winless winter and spring, their hosts the Azzurri look a fair price at 13/10.
Scotland shall be skippered at the Olympic Stadium in Turin by Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist on the occasion of his ninth cap. Returning from a broken arm last time out in Ireland, he is a 16/1 shot to lead by example and grab a try anytime.
With 11 changes in all to the XV that narrowly lost out in Dublin, Cotter expects another close contest – something which reflects the previously narrow margins in Italian encounters outlined above.
“The Irish game was an open, fairly fluid affair for the most part,” said Cotter. “But I think the Italy game will be a tighter battle, so we’ll be looking, perhaps, to play a bit differently.”
And that different approach means there are senior Scotland debuts for three players; John Hardie (open side back row), Glasgow Warriors wing Rory Hughes and Stuart McInally (hooker), who makes his bow after three years on the cusp of being capped.
Joining Gilchrist in keeping their starting spots are veteran Sean Lamont, the versatile Greig Tonks and Richie Vernon – an impressive performer against Ireland.
Hughes is 15/8 to cap his bow with a try anytime and so is seasoned international Lamont, who has crossed against Italy twice before. Matt Scott is also in that category, and better value at 12/5 in that market.
For Italy, Giovanbattista Venditti is their best scoring shout at 9/4 and his Zebre teammate Leonardo Sarto has similarly been a scourge of the Scots before. This is reflected in better odds of 11/4.
Coral’s top tip: To enhance Scotland’s status as odds-on match favourites, take a nifty 9/2 on their margin of victory being 1-5 points.
Italy XV: Andrea Masi, Leonardo Sarto, Tommaso Benvenuti, Gonzalo Garcia, Giovanbattista Venditti, Tommaso Allan, Guglielmo Palazzani, Matias Aguero, Davide Giazzon, Lorenzo Cittadini, Quintin Geldenhuys (c), Valerio Bernabo, Francesco Minto, Alessandro Zanni, Samuela Vunisa
Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Michele Rizzo, Martin Castrogiovanni, Marco Bortolami, Mauro Bergamasco, Marcello Violi, Carlo Canna, Luke McLean
Scotland XV: Greig Tonks, Sean Lamont, Richie Vernon, Matt Scott, Rory Hughes, Duncan Weir, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Gordon Reid, Stuart McInally, Mike Cusack, Richie Gray, Grant Gilchrist (c), Alasdair Strokosch, John Hardie, Adam Ashe
Replacements: Ross Ford, Alasdair Dickinson, Willem Nel, Jim Hamilton, Hamish Watson, Henry Pyrgos, Peter Horne, Damien Hoyland