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Scotland vs Italy play off preview

Scotland are aiming to build on a brave show against hosts South Africa when they meet Italy Saturday for third place in a four-nation tournament.

It took the Springboks the full 80 minutes to clinch a flattering 30-17 win in Nelspruit over opponents displaying far greater spirit than in a timid 27-17 surrender to Samoa the previous weekend.

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The Scots collected no points from two rounds of mini-league action ahead of the classification matches at Loftus Versfeld stadium, and Italy fared worse with no points either and much heavier beatings.

A good first 20 minutes of the second half could not prevent Italy slumping 44-10 to South Africa in Durban and they conceded a further five tries when going down 39-10 against Samoa.

Australia-born Scotland interim coach Scott Johnson, whose team selections have twice been delayed 48 hours because of huge casualty lists, wants more of the fire that rattled two-time world champions South Africa.

“I was encouraged by our performance against the Springboks last weekend, but having set that standard we have to ensure that we build upwards from it against Italy.

“This Test marks the end of a long season for both northern hemisphere teams in the tournament and we want no rocks under our beach towels after the Italy game.

“When we gathered in camp last month I said this tour would be about broadening our base and discovering whether certain players were ready to play international rugby.

“That has happened and we will take a lot from the tournament, but we also want to end the tour on a high against an Italian team we know well and respect greatly,” said Johnson.

It will be the second time the countries meet within five months with Scotland 34-10 winners of a Six Nations championship match at Murrayfield — their second biggest victory margin in a 20-Test rivalry.

Only five Scots and five Italians survive from the Edinburgh starting line-ups, when the home team ran in four tries and scrum-half Greig Laidlaw was voted man of the match.

Left-wing Sean Lamont, inside centre Matt Scott, Laidlaw, tight-head prop Euan Murray and No.8 Johnnie Beattie remain in a Scottish side hit by an injury plague and British and Irish Lions call-ups.

The five Italians are full-back Andrea Masi, left-wing Giovanbattista Venditti, South Africa-born scrum-half Tobias Botes, tight-head prop Martin Castrogiovanni and outstanding No. 8 and captain Sergio Parisse.

Jacques Brunel has rung the changes — seven against South Africa, seven against Samoa, 10 against Scotland — without success so far and the France-born coach seems particularly unsure who his best half-back partnership is.

He paired Alberto Di Bernardo and Edoardo Gori against the Springboks, Luciano Orquero and Gori against the Samoans, and now it is the turn of Di Bernardo and Botes to prove their worth.

The play-off is the first half of a Test double-header, preceding the final between South Africa and Samoa, and the organisers have cut some ticket prices by $10 (7.5 euros) to try and fill the 52,000 Loftus seats.

Match Official
: Leighton Hodges (WAL)



Andrea Masi; Leonardo Sarto, Luca Morisi, Alberto Sgarbi, Giovanbattista Venditti; Alberto Di Bernardo, Tobias Botes; Sergio Parisse (capt), Robert Barbieri, Joshua Furno; Marco Bortolami, Leandro Cedaro; Martin Castrogiovanni, Davide Giazzon, Matias Aguero

Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Alberto De Marchi, Lorenzo Cittadini, Antonio Pavanello, Alessandro Zanni, Alberto Chillon, Gonzalo Canale, Luke McLean


Peter Murchie; Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott, Sean Lamont; Tom Heathcote, Greig Laidlaw (capt); Johnnie Beattie, Alasdair Strokosch, David Denton; Alastair Kellock, Tim Swinson; Euan Murray, Scott Lawson, Alasdair Dickinson

Replacements: Fraser Brown, Moray Lo

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