Something’s Scotta give!
With both sides bottom of the pile and pointless after the first two rounds of matches this is very much the battle to avoid the wooden spoon. After last season’s respectable finishes, Italy and Scotland seem to have take a backward step this year.
Scotland coach Scott Johnson has made three changes to the pack as he looks to revitalize his side after a poor showing against England, with Scottish captain Kelly Brown again left out of the match 23 for the second game running. Dropping Ross Ford and David Denton would appear to weaken the Scots if anything but the return of Lion Richie Gray should add some fresh impetus in the second-row engine room.
The backs division needs a shake-up too, but in fairness to Johnson it is a sign of the paucity of talent available to him that there are no changes from 9 to 15.
Although well beaten by France in Round 2, the Italians did put it up to Wales at the Millennium Stadium in their opening match. In Sergio Parisse they continue to possess the best attacking No 8 in Northern Hemisphere rugby, while full-back Luke McLean has been in impressive form.
However, Italy looked like a throwback to the old days when they were overly-reliant on their forwards against France, while the perennial problem of place-kicking remains with Tommaso Allan only averaging a 50 per cent strike rate to date.
That said, after playing their opening two fixtures on the road, Italy at home are a different proposition. They have only suffered one defeat in their last four RBS 6 Nations matches played at Stadio Olimpico while Scotland’s away form, in contrast, is dismal: they have not won away from home in the Championship since beating Ireland at Croke Park in 2010.
Italy have won their last three home games against Scotland and that trend should continue here.
Our pick of the match odds is 11/20 for the home win; it certainly looks nailed on but when the Italians do win it tends to be by the narrowest of margins so Italy (-3.5) at 23/25 looks the pick of the handicap markets available.
The match kicks off at 1.30pm UK time in Rome on Saturday.