Scotland looking for back-to-back wins against Italy
Vern Cotter has made 14 changes to his Scotland side as he looks to make it successive wins against Italy on Saturday before the Kiwi selects his final 31-man World Cup squad.
It was hardly a classic last weekend in Turin as the Scots absconded with a narrow 16-12 victory over the Azzurri.
Cotter will be hopeful his side can come through Saturday’s encounter in Edinburgh with another win, and has recalled some of his big guns to the starting XV to try and ensure it.
The likes of Stuart Hogg, Mark Bennett, Finn Russell, Jonny Gray and captain Greig Laidlaw all return to make their first appearances of the summer as the Scots look to manufacture some momentum heading into next month’s World Cup.
This star-studded starting fifteen will be playing in front of a bumper Murrayfield crowd, which is sold out to its highest capacity ever.
Ryan Wilson also returns to Test rugby for Scotland, while South African-born prop Willem Nel also comes in to make his first international start.
Italy head coach Jacques Brunel, on the other hand, is being cautious with his main stars. He has left out Captain and icon Sergio Parisse, who they are keeping on the ice as they attempt to ensure he remains injury free.
In the Skippers absence powerful prop, Martin Castrogiavani will bring the forward pack a needed boost of leadership and will be driven forward in the scrum by Newcastle Falcons flanker, Joshua Furno.
Historically Scotland has faired better than the Azzurri, winning 10 of their 13 matchups at Murrayfield. However, their unexpected 22-19 loss during the Six Nations earlier this year in the Scotch Capital left Cotter and co frustratingly holding the wooden spoon.
The Scots open their World Cup campaign with a potential banana-skin clash with Japan on September 3rd while Italy start their tournament with a tricky clash against France four days prior.
The conflict will follow in the footsteps of Scotland’s 16-12 victory last weekend and will once again be a very disjointed affair. Wholesale changes have strengthened the hosts, and the Blues should be able to secure another positive result, and this time if all goes to plan, it ought to be a more comfortable score-line for Vern Cotter’s troops.
Scotland by 10.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 David Denton, 7 John Barclay, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Blair Cowan, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Matt Scott.
Italy: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Francesco Minto, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Joshua Furno, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (c), 1 Matias Aguero.
Replacements: 16 Andrea Manici, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Quintin Geldenhuys, 20 Mauro Bergamasco, 21 Marcello Violi, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Andrea Masi.