Italy forced to change for Wooden spoon decider

Italy have been forced into a late change for Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Scotland in Rome which will decide who wins the wooden spoon.

Leonardo Ghiraldini has withdrawn, his place at hooker goes to Aironi’s Fabio Ongaro.

Italy’s XV is the second most experienced test team of all-time with a total of 822 caps with another 50 caps on the bench.

The record is a combined 836 caps in the starting lineup when South Africa lost 9-11 to Australia in last year’s RWC quarter-final match.

A crowd of 70,000 is expected at the Stadio Olimpico but even that won’t hide the fact this is a battle to avoid being the worst team in the tournament.

Italy have earned that dubious title nine times in 12 years since joining the competition and on two of the three occasions they didn’t finish bottom, Scotland did.

The last time these two didn’t finish in the bottom two places was in 2007 when Italy beat Wales at home and won at Murrayfield, their best ever Six Nations season, and finished fourth.

But in all four of Nick Mallett’s seasons in charge, despite beating Scotland twice and France once, Italy finished bottom of the pile every time.

Playing Scotland again to avoid last place is something that Italy scrum-half Edoardo Gori admits is a source of consternation for his team-mates.

“I think there’s a bit of frustration because we have almost always, since we entered the Six Nations, played against Scotland, and occasionally against Wales (to avoid finishing bottom),” he said.

“There’s frustration there but there’s a bit of confidence because we know our opponents, we know how they play and how we can hurt them.

“But it’s the same thing for them, they know us.”

Although both sides have lost all four matches so far, Italy coach Jacques Brunel actually believes Scotland are a better team than their results have shown.

“They’re not a lot underneath the others, we’ve seen in all their matches they were in the game, they competed and could have won,” he said.

“They’re a very difficult team to play against, they’re very mobile and powerful in certain areas.

“We can’t look for the ideal match because if we always look for that we’ll never find it.

“We’re looking to see all the bits of the puzzle we’ve put in place, the good pieces, and to try to cut out the defects there have been in the previous games.”

Scotland come into the game on the brink of major coaching changes.

Defence coach Graham Steadman is leaving, attacking coach Gregor Townsend is moving to Glasgow Warriors next season and head coach Andy Robinson is fighting for his survival.

And recalled centre Nick De Luca, who has Italian origins, says the players are eager to give their departing coaches a positive send off.

“We owe it to ourselves and to them (the coaches) to get a result this week,” he said.

“We have to give everything for the full 80 minutes if we want to get a result in Rome. We’ve gone into the last game a lot without a win and got it.

“We’re confident in our ability. Italy are a quality side but we have to be confident we can go out and get a result.”

De Luca believes he can bring some intensity to the Scots’ play.

“I’ll be looking to bring my energy, my defence and my skills in attack back to the team and hopefully we can start ticking again.

“Our defence has got to be huge. They’ve got some big ball carriers and as a 13 I see myself as setting an example, so I’ll be looking to do that.”

Last season Italy went to Murrayfield full of confidence having beaten France in a historic match in Rome but they failed to perform, lost 21-8 and finished bottom on points difference.

The Azzurri have actually won their last two home games against Scotland but in 2008 they again finished bottom on points difference and two years ago the Scots’ ability to get results aga

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