Murrayfield Misery To Continue For Italy
Scotland v Italy
Italy’s poor record at Murrayfield looks set to continue on Saturday against a resilient Scottish side.
Scotland improved steadily under Vern Cotter last year, and have acquitted themselves well in their opening two 6 Nations games of 2015, scoring the only try in a hard-fought game in Paris and grafting hard against a full-strength Wales side at Murrayfield. But despite two encouraging performances, they have nothing to show for their efforts and their annual wooden spoon match with Italy has become a must win game.
Playing well without having anything to show for it was the story of Italy’s 2014, and this year’s 6 Nations campaign already has a familiar look to it. They started their campaign with a brave effort against Ireland in Rome, but were unable to keep the reigning champions out, and then they gave England an early scare at Twickenham in their last game, taking the lead early in the match, but were overrun in the end.
Scotland were already missing several players before their last match and their list of absentees has since lengthened. Jon Welsh, Gordon Reid and Richie Gray all picked up injuries in the match against Wales and will sit out this weekend’s game, along with Finn Russell, who is suspended. But there is some good news for the home side with the return of David Denton, Chris Cusiter and Adam Ashe, who should all be fit in time.
Italy have three injury concerns ahead of their trip to Murrayfield. Experienced tight-head prop Martin Castrogiavanni has had fourteen stitches to his nose after being bitten by a friend’s dog. He will be replaced by Wasps’ Lorenzo Cittadini. Andrea Masi is out after suffering a severe cut in an Aviva Premiership game on Friday and Marco Bortolami is suffering from an abductor problem so is unlikely to be available.
These perennial wooden-spoon rivals have met twenty-two times since their first encounter in 1996. Scotland hold the upper hand, with fifteen wins to Italy’s seven, although the 6 Nations record is slightly closer, with Scotland on nine wins and Italy on six. Italy have only won one of their last six meetings, a nervy 13-6 victory in 2012, although they came close to repeating it last year, only to be foiled by a last minute Duncan Weir drop-goal.
Away from fortress Rome, however, Italy’s record is poor. In eleven trips to Murrayfield, they’ve only managed one win, back in 2007. Their last four visits to Edinburgh have produced four defeats by an average margin of 17 points.
Both teams have emerged from their opening two games with plenty of credit but no points and that could make for a tense encounter at Murrayfield. Italy are dangerous opponents, as they showed in the first half hour at Twickenham, but their record in Edinburgh is poor and I expect a resilient Scottish side to impose themselves on the occasion. Back Scotland -11 at 10/11 in the Match Handicap market.