Italy v Scotland preview: Team news, kick-off time, line-ups and stats for the Six Nations clash
Scotland travel to Italy looking to get their first win of the 2016 RBS Six Nations: 14:25 kick-off
Fit-again winger Tim Visser returns to Vern Cotter’s starting line-up
Italy have brought in Kelly Haimona to replace the injured Carlo Canna
The Six Nations’ winless outfits do battle in Rome this Saturday to avoid the ignominy of slipping towards another wooden spoon.
Duncan Weir’s drop goal settled the last meeting between Italy and Scotland the last time they faced off in the Italian capital – a moment of great drama made for the coliseum as Scotland snatched a 21-20 win – yet bizarrely that moment stands as Scotland’s most recent win in the Six Nations.
Now 736 days later Vern Cotter’s troops will return to Rome wanting to put a surprisingly poor record to rest.
Fit-again winger Tim Visser returns to Scotland’s starting line-up, with Sean Lamont dropping to a much-changed bench. Also coming in as substitutes are Moray Low, Ryan Wilson, Peter Horner and debutant prop Rory Sutherland.
Italy have brought in Kelly Haimona to replace the injured Carlo Canna.
Full-back David Odiete returns from an ankle injury to replace Luke McLean, as lock Joshua Furno comes in for George Biagi, who broke a rib against England.
Meanwhile, veteran hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini returns to the front row, for his first international game since suffering a hamstring injury at the World Cup.
Wins away to Wales and Ireland look unlikely, so now is the Azzurri‘s time to strike.
Four of the last five tests between Italy and Scotland have been decided by four points or fewer.
The teams met three times in 2015 – Scotland won the two most recent clashes but Italy won the Six Nations game.
Italy have lost their last six home matches in the Six Nations since beating Ireland in 2013.
Scotland have lost their last nine Six Nations matches, their worst run in the Championship since they lost 15 in a row between 1951 and 1955.
Scotland have won just once on the road in the Six Nations since 2010 – in this fixture two years ago.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Italy: Sergio Parisse
This Italian No. 8 is the genuine colossus of European rugby. His leadership, flair and ability to get over the gainline will be key to Italy as they attempt to finish off the bottom of the Six Nations for a second consecutive year following their fifth place finish in 2015.
Scotland: Jonny Gray
Jonny Gray has already blossomed into a world-class player and, if he continues his relentless progress, many are tipping him to challenge for a starting Test place when the Lions tour New Zealand next summer.
2015: Scotland won 48-7 in Edinburgh
2015: Scotland won 16-12 in Turin
2015: Italy won 22-19 at Murrayfield
2014: Scotland won 21-20 in Rome
2013: Scotland won 30-29 in Pretoria
2013: Scotland won 34-10 at Murrayfield
2012: Italy won 13-6 in Rome
2011: Scotland won 23-12 at Murrayfield
2011: Scotland won 21-8 at Murrayfield
2010: Italy won 16-12 in Rome
Italy: 15 David Odiete, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (c), 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Matteo Zanusso, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Valerio Bernabo, 20 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Edoardo Padovani, 23 Andrea Pratichetti
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 David Denton, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Moray Low, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Sean Lamont
Date: Saturday, February 27
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Kick-off: 14:25 GMT
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Pascal Gauzère (France), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)