Preview – Scotland v Italy

If it wasn’t for the World Cup later in the year this game could have been nothing more than a wooden spoon decider. As it is the Murrayfield clash doubles up as Pool C dress rehearsal, where the winner of that game in September will be favourites to qualify behind New Zealand.

If this week is anything to go by though, between now and September both sides have a lot of work to do, as the focus from both camps this week has centred around the need and capability to improve.

For Scotland their forwards coach George Graham has spoken of how his side must raise their scrummaging game if they are to compete with the Italians.

“There is obviously a lot more work to be done and the first building blocks were put in place out on the back pitches at Murrayfield when we had a really good scrummaging session,” said Graham.

Although he must be delighted at their efforts in the loose two weeks ago as they battered Wales off the park with superb tight play and defence, a repaet performance will be the order of the day when the Azzurri roll into town on Saturday.

The Italians have not just made an impression on Graham as Scotland hooker Dougie Hall knows he will need to be on top of his game in bossing the scrum if Scotland want to have an attacking platform to play from.

“They (Italy) really are good at disrupting opposition ball, and they are very secure on their own ball – so we have to make sure we are equal to that challenge, and I’m sure we will be,” said Hall.

“And it is not going to be good enough just to get the ball, we have to supply good ball for our backs to play with.”

For Italy there is a double focus, even if one of those is a personal hoodoo for coach Pierre Berbizier who has never won at Murrayfield as a coach or in his playing days with France. However the main focus is on an ever improving side who are seeking their first ever away win in the championship.

With the strides Italy have been making, most notably against England, many believe they go to Murrayfield as slight favourites, especially with their formidable forward pack. This is not to say that is all they will offer but for large periods of the game this is the route they will take.

History could well favour the Italians, as they claimed their first championship win over Scotland way back in 2000, so now as they seek that elusive first away win they will be hoping for lightening to strike twice. Although Berbizier is well aware of the difficulties of going away to Edinburgh.

“Edinburgh is probably the most difficult away game for us in the tournament. In ten years as a player for France I was never able to win a single game there,” said Berbizier.

However Berbizier will care little for history on Saturday as his side look to confirm the steady improvements they have been making. Although he may not readily admit it Berbizier will surely have one eye on the World Cup clash, as in a group with New Zealand there best hope can be a runner up spot.

A victory at Murrayfield would therefore act as a double tonic for Italy, but on the back of a huge forward display against Wales the Scots will not go into the night without a fight.

One to Watch:

For Scotland: You might want to watch the entire forward pack to see how the deal with the might of the Italians but this game will be won in the backs for Scotland. Back after injury and finding his form again the key man is Rob Dewey. The Edinburgh centre will provide a focus for his side and ensure they are always attacking on the front foot. For a big man he is deceptively quick and can be an elusive runner and will look to cause the Italian midfield problems.

For Italy: So much talk this week has focused around their pack and the need to out-muscle Scotland as they did to England. Josh Sole may be out but his replacement Alessandr

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