Scots to grind out a victory in Italy
In the first of two back-to-back fixtures, Scotland travel to Turin before the return fixture at Murrayfield next weekend.
For Italy, this represents the first of three warm-up games before their World Cup opener against France. Jacques Brunel’s side are in a tough looking pool, which also includes the Irish, and know they will have to realistically defeat either of those opponents if they are to progress.
Scotland took plenty of positives from last week’s tune up in Dublin, despite leaving a clutch of World Cup certainties out of the squad. The biggest plus was a hugely impressive back-row performance with David Denton outstanding at No 8 and decent showings too from Blair Cowan and debutant Hugh Blake.
All three make way here, however, with Cotter shuffling his deck and making 11 changes.
Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist captains the side after a broken arm cost him the captaincy prior to last year’s autumn internationals.
Elsewhere, Stuart McInally make his debut at hooker, while South Africa-born prop Willem Nel is also in line for a first Scottish cap after qualifying under the residency rule and New Zealand-born flanker John Hardie follows fellow former Otago man Blake by making his bow this weekend.
Glasgow winger Rory Hughes is the only new cap named in a rejigged backline that sees Duncan Weir take over at pivot and Richie Vernon come back into the centre.
With smaller playing resources than many of his rivals, Brunel was quick to name just 37 players in his training squad back in July, Glasgow flanker Simone Favaro the only casualty to raise an eyebrow.
The Azzurri continue to pack a punch up front and do possess some talented backline flyers, such as new Exeter Chiefs signing Michele Campagnaro, but they still lack a genuine playmaker. Kelly Haimona and Tommaso Allan shared the out-half duties in the Six Nations but the former has been ruled out through injury leaving the latter as the only experienced option at out-half.
As ever Italy remain overly reliant on a small cohort of top players, with evergreen skipper Sergio Parisse leading the way. However, the fitness of veteran flanker Alessandro Zanni remains a concern having missed the last five months through injury.
Results, however, against Scotland in recent times have been positive, Italy winning six of the last 12 encounters, including the sides’ most recent clash in the 2015 Six Nations.
Home advantage should count for something here but whether it will be enough to secure victory against an improving Scotland side remains to be seen. With last week’s run out under their belt, Scotland (7/10Add to betslip) look primed for a first away victory against European opposition since their 2014 victory in Rome.
The match kicks off at 7pm on Saturday August 22nd at Stadio Olimpico, Turin.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.