This fixture will decide who wins the wooden spoon. This fixture will decide whether Vern Cotter has a viable future with Scotland. This fixture will define how Italy approach their long term plan heading into the 2019 RWC. A fixture which may be nervy and sometimes scrappy in open play will shed plenty in terms of two teams who have massively disappointed so far in this tournament this season.
Scotland have gone ten 6N games without victory. Their first two games of this tournament have spoke volumes in terms of the confidence and game decisions requited to get over the line and win a match. It is not that Scotland have not had their opportunities against England or Wales to put more points on the board but the lack of composure in critical times have proved fatal.
This is a defining game for Vern Cotter, he badly needs a win to get his team to start believe and improve confidence. Scotland’s struggles in the backdrop of Glasgow Warriors league success is all the more baffling. When you add the skill set provided by the Edinburgh contingent and you start to question why this team are not winning games in this tournament.
They will never have a better opportunity to break their losing streak. Italy are a team in crisis. Their one dimensional pack orientated game plan startled France but England snuffed out the pack threat and exposed the Azzuri back line defensively in a second half rout.
Sergio Parisse is a man mountain but has precious little support in the ranks. The lack of responsibility and accountability by certain Italian kicking options at the death of the French contest spoke volumes. No leadership or accountability in the ranks as Sergio was forced to drop goal, his shrug of the shoulders at his colleagues was enough. The camp is divided.
Scotland have to start this game with gusto and physicality. The front five need to build a platform and the half-backs need quick ruck ball to unleash the likes of Hogg, Visser and the promising Duncan Taylor who showed positively at twelve in his last outing against Wales.
Italy’s only hope is to win the scrum battle but it looks a 50/50 contest at this time. Unless Italy provide an attacking back line dimension which has being bereft so far, Scotland should soak up the pressure of the hosts and win this contest with something to spare.
If Scotland fail to win in Rome, question marks on Vern Cotter’s future has to be raised. Scotland for all their RWC exploits have taken two steps back in this tournament, a win here is the pre-requisite this weekend. The performance is secondary. With Visser back, the signs look good for Scotland.
Verdict: Scotland by seven point after a nervy start