Rugby: Defence key for youthful Italy in Test against Scotland

Italy training at the National Stadium ahead of their international Test match against Scotland today. They are looking for their first win since last November.
Italy training at the National Stadium ahead of their international Test match against Scotland today. They are looking for their first win since last November.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Underdogs Italy determined to stop Scotland from posting another huge victory over them

Nothing will be more important for Italy today than a solid defensive display as they bid to get their first win over Scotland in two years.

The Azzurri will arrive at the National Stadium as underdogs today, the first time Singapore is hosting an international rugby Test in almost two decades.

Edoardo Gori, captain of the 15th-ranked Azzurri, said of the fifth-ranked Scots: "It's true, they are indeed a very tough side."

Italy had a winless Six Nations campaign this year and their last victory was seven months ago against South Africa.

It does not help that they have brought a relatively inexperienced side to Singapore, with an average age of 24 years and an average of 19 international caps per player.

It is why they are depending on their defence to prevent the Scots from storming to victory.

After all, their most recent encounter in March saw the Azzurri receiving a 29-0 pummelling in Edinburgh at the Six Nations.

Gori, 27, said yesterday: "Our defence will be absolutely crucial, it will be the key to winning the match.

"We have worked on our defence system over the last year and we know that Scotland are a very quick team.

"It will be entirely up to our defence to stop them."

The Scots are not taking anything for granted. Despite being touted as the favourites, forwards coach Dan McFarland was quick to admit that Italy could give them a tough fight.

He said: "Italian packs have always been strong. They have shown the kind of rugby that they can play.

"They haven't really got the results they expected but we expect them to be at a high level.

"Especially with the young players, they will have that kind of hunger to win."

Bravehearts captain John Barclay added: "Italy always target the game against Scotland. It's hard to expect what type of rugby they will be playing because we haven't had any international matches in a while.

"But what I know for a fact is that they always come hard and really passionately."

One other factor that could have an impact on the game will be the climate.

Italy's uncapped lock Dean Budd said: "Personally I'd enjoy a game in the day but judging by the heat here, I'd wish we played at midnight instead.

"The sun being down will help us because we Europeans aren't used to that much heat while playing rugby."

However, the Scots remain confident that they can handle the heat.

Said McFarland: "It's hot, the ball becomes slippery and the shirts will be wet - all these are challenges, but we've prepared in this condition and we're ready to go.

"We're confident in our ability and what we can do to win the game."

•Tickets to the Scotland-Italy match are available at sportshub.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'Defence key for Youthful Azzurri'. Print Edition | Subscribe