Preview: Italy v Scotland

Date published: June 21 2013

Even though they have little to play for, Scotland and Italy should provide plenty of entertainment in Saturday's opener in Pretoria.

Even though they have little to play for, Scotland and Italy should provide plenty of entertainment in Saturday's quadrangular tournament opener in Pretoria.

Both sides are winless after their two previous matches and will be desperate to conclude their respective tours on a high.

As Six Nations foes, these teams play each other regularly so it can be said that they know each other's games quite well.

However, both sides have gone through several personnel changes during this tournament and will still be wary of each other as they head into this encounter.

Italy coach Jacques Brunel has made 10 changes to his run-on side for this match including two debutants in right wing Leonard Sarto, and lock Leandro Cedaro.

Under Brunel, Italy have made a concerted effort to combine their traditional dominance in the forward exchanges with a more expansive style of play from their backs.

They have, however, struggled to gain success from this game-plan during this quadrangular tournament.

In their opening match against South Africa there were some good and bad moments.

They fought back from a 20-0 half-time deficit to trail 20-10, before a late surge from the Springboks saw them eventually losing 44-10 in Durban.

The Azzurri then seemed to regress in their next match against Samoa which they lost 39-10. That match saw a dominant display from their forwards in the scrums but there was little else to shout about for their supporters.

After a below par performance in their opening defeat to Samoa in Durban, Scotland proved against South Africa in Nelspruit last weekend that they have made great strides under caretaker coach Scott Johnson.

The Scots had the Springboks under the cosh before a dubious yellow card to Jim Hamilton late in the game saw the homeside claiming an unconvincing 30-17 victory.

Johnson has made tremendous strides with an experimental squad who, despite several injuries, gave a good account of themselves against the Boks.

“I was encouraged by our performance against the Springboks last weekend, but having set that standard we have to ensure that we build upwards from it against Italy,” said Johnson.

“This Test marks the end of a long season for both northern hemisphere teams in the tournament and we want no rocks under our beach towels after the Italy game.

“When we gathered in camp last month I said this tour would be about broadening our base and discovering whether certain players were ready to play international rugby.

“That has happened and we will take a lot from the tournament, but we also want to end the tour on a high against an Italian team we know well and respect greatly,” said Johnson.

Earlier this year, Scotland delivered a sensational performance in a comprehensive 34-10 victory when these sides clashed in their Six Nations encounter in Edinburgh.

Although that match took place in February, it will still be fresh in the memories of both teamswho will be determined to break their respective ducks in this tournament.

Ones to watch:

For Italy: Even though Italy have struggled in this tournament, their captain Sergio Parisse has, as usual, been one of their best players. The Stade Français stalwart has showed off his vast array of skills during his side's previous matches to the delight of the South African crowds, and if he puts in another top class performance, and his team-mates follow his example, it could bring a positive result for the Azzurri.

For Scotland: Glasgow lock Tim Swinson made a memorable Test debut against South Africa last weekend. Swinson was one of his side's best players and had the better of the Springboks' highly-rated second row combination of Eben Etzebeth and Juandre Kruger. If he continues where he left off in that game, he will prove a handful for the Italians.

Head-to-head: Both sides pride themselves on doing their basics right – particularly the scrums – and the battle of the front rows will have a huge bearing on this match. Italy's Martin Castrogiovanni, Davide Giazzon, Matias Aguero are a strong scrummaging unit but face formidable opponents in Scotland's experienced trio of Euan Murray, Scott Lawson and Alasdair Dickinson. Gaining the ascendancy in the scrums usually gives a side a huge phsycological edge and it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top in this battle.

Recent results:

2013: Scotland won 34-10 in Edinburgh
2012: Italy won 13-6 in Rome
2011: Scotland won 23-12 in Edinburgh
2011: Scotland won 21-8 in Edinburgh
2010: Italy won 16-12 in Rome
2009: Scotland won 26-6 in Edinburgh
2008: Italy won 23-20 in Rome
2007: Scotland won 18-16 in St Etienne (World Cup pool match)
2007: Italy won 37-17 in Edinburgh
2006: Scotland won 13-10 in Rome
2005: Scotland won 18-10 in Edinburgh
2004: Italy won 20-14 in Rome

Prediction: Although these sides are evenly matched, Scotland will be the more confident side after they ran South Africa close last weekend. It will be close but Scotland will win by five points!

The teams:

Italy: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Sergio Parisse (capt), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Joshua Furno, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Leandro Cedaro, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Lorenzo Cittadini, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Alessandro Zanni, 21 Alberto Chillon, 22 Gonzalo Canale, 23 Luke McLean.

Scotland: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Alasdair Strokosch, 6 David Denton, 5 Al Kellock, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jon Welsh, 18 Moray Low, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Rob Harley, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Tim Visser.

Date: Saturday, June 22
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 14.15 (local)
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
Television match official: Deon van Blommestein (South Africa)
Timekeeper: Gabriel Pappas (South Africa)
Assessor: Dennis Immelman