Italy seek to end Six Nations losing streak in clash with Scotland
Franco Smith believes side can build on recent progress and break five-year curse
Italy coach Franco Smith talks to an assistant during their defeat to France at Stade de France on February 9th. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
ITALY v SCOTLAND
Saturday, 2.15pm, Stadio Olimpico - Virgin Media, ITV
Franco Smith says he has put his faith in Italy’s core unit as the Azzurri seek to finally end their five-year Six Nations losing streak.
The Italians have not registered a championship victory since their 2015 win at Murrayfield.
But interim head coach Smith saw progress after naming the same starting line-up that was crushed 42-0 by Wales in this year’s opener for their second-round fixture against favourites France.
Italy even managed three tries as they pushed Les Bleus before eventually going down 35-22.
Now Smith had again gone with the same starting XV and hopes the growing bond being developed between his players will be enough to seal victory.
In an interview published on the Italian Rugby Union’s website, he said: “We are focused on what we want to do on the field and how to use the next three games of the tournament to build our group.
“Each game is a chance to increase our skills, we have been working together for a month to build our identity, our DNA. It is the most important aspect we are focused on.
“We think about us and what we have to do.
“The decision to confirm the line-up that played in Cardiff and Paris is aimed at building a solid base of players aware of our game, of what we want to do.
“It’s important to me to have a core of players who know exactly what we want and who can act as reference points on the pitch.
“In this first month we have added and modified many aspects, the choice to confirm the starting team is to give a clear indication of the path we have chosen and the group to follow it.
“We prepared the game physically and mentally, in particular for the second phase of the match.
“We are proud and we want to win and we will have to do the right things to do it.
“Physicality is an aspect of the game of Italy that we are trying to develop more and more, it is one of the key aspects of our DNA.”
ITALY: J Hayward (Benetton); M Bellini (Zebre), L Morisi (Benetton), C Canna (Zebre), M Minozzi (Wasps); T Allan (Benetton), C Braley (Gloucester); A Lovotti (Zebre), L Bigi (Zebre, capt), G Zilocchi (Zebre); A Zanni (Benetton), N Cannone (Benetton); J Polledri (Gloucester), S Negri (Benetton), A Steyn (Benetton).
Replacements: F Zani (Benetton), D Fischetti (Zebre), M Riccioni (Benetton), M Lazzaroni (Benetton), D Budd (Benetton), G Licata (Zebre), G Palazzani (Zebre), G Bisegni (Zebre).
SCOTLAND: S Hogg (Exeter, capt); S Maitland (Saracens), C Harris (Gloucester), S Johnson (Glasgow), B Kinghorn (Edinburgh); A Hastings (Glasgow), A Price (Glasgow); R Sutherland (Edinburgh), S McInally (Edinburgh), Z Fagerson (Glasgow); B Toolis (Edinburgh), S Cummings (Glasgow); J Ritchie (Edinburgh), H Watson (Edinburgh), M Bradbury (Edinburgh).
Replacements: F Brown (Glasgow), A Dell (London Irish), W Nel (Edinburgh), G Gilchrist (Edinburgh), M Fagerson (Glasgow), G Horne (Glasgow), R Hutchinson (Northampton), B McGuigan (Sale).
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand).