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Scotland v Italy: Six Nations 2023, Match Preview pt I


KO 12.30 at BT Murrayfield
Saturday 18th March 2023

Live on BBC1

Scotland are aiming for their twelfth consecutive win against Italy – this would take this streak out on its own as the dark blues’ longest run of victories against any nation in Test history.

Scotland’s longest winning streaks against the other members of the Six Nations:

  • England – 4 (1893-1897 and 1970-1973)
  • France – 5 (1925-1930)
  • Ireland – 11 (1882-1893)
  • Italy – 11 (2015- )
  • Wales – 5 (1923-1928)

Italy Scouting Report

Six Nations Struggles

Victory against Wales at the tail end of last season’s tournament finally snapped Italy’s 36-match losing streak in the Six Nations. After also turning over Australia in the autumn, Kieran Crowley’s side must have been relishing the start of the 2023 edition.

Things definitely haven’t gone to plan though. While they made life difficult for world numbers 1 and 2, Ireland and France, ultimately they only came away from those games with a single losing bonus point. They will regret not testing a rebuilding English side and their error-strewn performance against Wales.

That most recent defeat will really sting. While the head coach has deflected the focus onto the referee, he and his players will know that they created more than enough breaks and opportunities to vanquish the Welsh but simply made too many costly errors.

The double whammy that Scotland could face is that if the visitors get their psychological preparation right they will be able to combine the desperation for a victory with the knowledge that these kind of results can be in their own hands if they just execute their skills and the game plan they have been sent out there with.

Can We Kick It? No, Non Puoi

During the Six Nations, Italy have gained 2,415 metres through kicking the ball – by far the lowest return for any team in the tournament. That’s more than a kilometre less than Scotland and 1.7km less than France and England who are within 2 metres of each other at the top of the table for this stat.

Every other team in the championship has gained more ground from kicks than they have through carrying the ball. Italy have made nearly 800m more running than they do kicking. The commitment to their attacking shape is admirable but not playing the percentages on a regular basis has put them in defensive trouble on more than one occasion.

Scotland will need to be on their guard though. Fewer kicks mean fewer counter-attacking opportunities of their own for one thing. The Azzurri’s willingness to test defences has also seen them find holes to flood through, particularly when exploiting some pretty ropy midfield defence against Wales. The Huwipulotu partnership has drawn plenty of plaudits for their attacking flair but they have also combined for 78 tackles at a completion rate of 88%. They will need to be on the money again on Saturday.

  • Italy are the only team in the tournament to receive 4 cards (all yellow).
  • Sebastian Negri is the only forward with more than 50 carries in this season’s Six Nations.
  • The 32 lineout takes for Federico Ruzza are 14 more than anyone else in the championship. The Benetton lock is responsible for more than 50% of his team’s catches on their own throw-in.

Previous results

This will be the 12th time the two sides have met in Edinburgh for a Six Nations’ match. The head-to-head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:


Most recent meeting at Murrayfield:

Scotland 52 – 10 Italy

Significant stat
48 defenders beaten by Scotland – the most in the Townsend era. The corollary of this stat is of course on the other side it means the Italians missed 48 tackles. There were another 40 defenders beaten / missed tackles when the dark blues took a comfortable win in Rome last year as well.

The Azzurri themselves have 121 broken tackles in this season’s Six Nations – second only to France on 124. While it won’t exactly be defences optional, these are two teams set up to attack and, if the weather plays ball, this game could be a real tear-up to close out the tournament.

The Scottish Rugby Blog match report from that game is here.


Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant 1: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant 2: Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)

Last week, Scotland’s streak of 10 games without losing the penalty count was snapped by Ireland (6 pens for to 10 against) but history suggested that was always likely to be the case against that opposition! It’s essential that the team get back onto that good recent run of discipline against an Italian side who are in the middle of the pack for penalties conceded in this Six Nations.

Where the Azzurri do fall down in particular is at scrum time (10 pens – the most in the competition, compared to 6 for Scotland) and offside (9 pens – behind France’s 11 and Wales’ 10 but considerably higher than the 2 given up by Scotland).

Scotland’s previous game with Mr Gardner in charge:

  • 2021 – lost to South Africa (H)
    Penalties: 24 (
    For 9 – 15 Against)
    Cards: none

Part II of the preview, including the head to heads, will follow on Friday after the team announcement on Thursday.

The Teams

Scotland: Ollie Smith, Kyle Steynm Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Duhan van der Merwe, Blair Kinghorn, Ben White; Pierre Schoeman, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Sam Skinner, Jonny Gray, Jamie Ritchie (capt), Hamish Watson, Jack Dempsey.
Replacements: Ewan Ashman, Rory Sutherland, WP Nel, Scott Summings, Matt Fagerson, Ali Price, Ben Healy, Cameron Redpath.

The post Scotland v Italy: Six Nations 2023, Match Preview pt I appeared first on Scottish Rugby Blog.



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