Returning big guns ready to fire for Scots
After ending an eight-month wait for their first win of 2015, Scotland will look to build on that with successive victories over the Italians.
Vern Cotter culled a further seven names from his extended squad this week and brings back a host of front-line troops here – only Sean Lamont retains his place – before naming his World Cup squad just two days after this game.
Scotland’s 16-12 win last week was as close as the scoreline suggests. The Scots held their own in a forward-dominated opening hour before the Italian pack eventually began to put on the squeeze and Scotland were grateful for a couple of moments of inspiration from replacements Peter Horne and Henry Pyrgos to set up the latter’s late winning try.
Horne gets the chance to shine from the start here alongside Mark Bennett. With Matt Scott on the bench and the likes of Alex Dunbar and Richie Vernon also vying for the midfield slots, this is beginning to look like an area of strength for Scotland.
There is great competition among the back rows, too, with new men John Hardie and Hugh Blake providing additional backrow options, where the established David Denton and John Barclay are joined by Ryan Wilson from the off here, with Robert Harley in reserve.
As preparations crank up there are further recalls for backline mainstays Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Tim Visser, while scrum-half Greig Laidlaw returns to captain the side.
Azzurri coach Jaques Brunel named his 31 strong World Cup panel earlier this week so the pressure is off his players to some degree. However, competition for starting places will be fierce with only one more warm-up game scheduled before their Pool D opener against France.
There were no major shocks in that squad, although veteran second row Marco Bortolami missed the cut, along with flanker Robert Barbieri.
Former Scotland Under 20 out-half Tommaso Allan, who faced four of his former age-grade team-mates in Turin last week, showed enough to suggest Italy won’t miss the injured Kelly Haimona. Elsewhere, Fiji-born Samuela Vunisa, filling the not inconsiderate boots of Sergio Parisse last Saturday, was voted man of the match and along with Allan looks like one to watch, wherever he ends up being accommodated.
After their confidence-boosting win, a stronger looking Scottish side, playing in front of a predicted record Murrayfield crowd for a summer match, should have the edge and Add to betslipare available (-8.5) at 5/8.
The match kicks off at 3.15pm on Saturday, August 29th at BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.