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How can Scotland defeat the Italians?

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John Beattie | 20:08 UK time, Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Italians have always scared me. And how do you think we can beat them at the weekend? Come on - tactics, my friends?

I had to interview Martin Castrogiovanni live on TV once as man of the match. He pretended he couldn't speak English for the duration of the interview after the Italians had beaten Scotland in 2000 and we had an interpreter.

But then I handed him the champagne. "Thank you very much," he said in perfect English and with a wink. "I will drink this tonight." Bad boy.

Martin Castrogiovanni of ItalyItaly's Martin Castrogiovanni typifies the formidable challenge Scotland face
But back to my Roman fear. Latin, for instance, was a chore at school - sinister, dexter and all that stuff. Get it wrong and the belt came crashing down on outstretched hands.

What do you mean you never had the belt?!

But boy, oh boy were we happy as Scots to know that the furthest north the Romans made it in the UK was a rather rich suburb of Glasgow called Bearsden.

They built the Antonine Wall and thought: "That's enough, let's go home, we can't take any more midges, these quaint delicatessens or those posh accents."

To think they ran amok through the length of England with nary a challenge.

And though it is invasion in reverse this weekend, with a few folk from Bearsden running amok in Rome, the Italians have done enough to earn respect in rugby terms.

Let's look at Italian rugby. The Scottish scrummaging coach, Massimo Cuttita, is Italian (via South Africa). They have over 60,000 registered rugby players in Italy, which is around double the number in Scotland.

They have a league of 10 professional teams while we have two, and reports say that they are about to enter the Magners League. Which is good.

I argued a while ago that Italy should not have been allowed into the then Five Nations. How wrong can a man be? They will turn this championship upside down within 10 years and they will challenge for the top.

Why? Well, they will always be able to produce a pool of talent from Antipodeans and Argentinians who qualify to represent them and I think they will produce more and more quality players themselves.

The three keys to this game this weekend for Scotland will be the set pieces of scrums and line-outs, physicality at breakdowns including mauls, and how the Scots use possession through Dan Parks.

My guess, and it's only a guess, is that Scotland won't change much and will take the good bits of Cardiff with them, and at stages in the game will have to prove they want to take part in an arm wrestle.

You can't run away form the opposition's strength. Expect to see the Scots maul occasionally but keep that pattern of running off Dan Parks and using his boot to get out of danger.

But, trust me on this, the most important two pieces of this game are mental attitude and the scrum. If Scotland turn up at 75% and the scrum creaks, they will lose. If they are 100% on their game and the scrum is solid, they will win.

Now, let's march. Sinister... Sinister...Sinister, Dexter, Sinister.

We can't build a wall, so, if you were Scotland coach, what would your tactics be?


  • Comment number 1.

    My reckoning s the game will be won or lost in how much the team gets caught up in a battle of physicality with the Italians. They place a lot of emphasis on the strength of their pack and the Scottish scrum lately has been poor.

    Two things for me will beat the Italians: 1) Discipline - for the Italians have a tendency to beat themselves by giving away penalties and if we get too ahead of ourselves in a physical battle, we will start giving them away around the breakdown.

    And 2) Intelligence - we need some strong leadership from Cusiter and reasonable thinking from Dan Parks to relieve any pressure we're put under and to make sure we are resourceful with possession. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of another bruising defeat to the Azzurri.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi John, Have recently got back into Rugby and even more recently started commenting on blogs like yours. Great by the way. When I got back into Rugby full swing about 5 months ago I started following Glasgow Warriors. After watching the shocking performance this weekend against Cardiff Blues I have a couple of questions for you.

    1-Do you really think young Jackson is the way to go for Scotland’s choice of Stand-Off? I have only seen him play a few times and I got to be honest I have not been at all impressed. Having said that the hype must be coming from somewhere.

    2-Are there any other 10’s that are being developed? I have only heard Jacksons name being mentioned and would like to think that there are at least three people being developed at all times.

    Jackson did suffer a dead leg during the first half but played on eventually to be replaced by Collin Gregor. Collin looked more natural in the position. He was also faster, took the ball to contact without getting his erm…bottom handed back to him, his passing was more accurate and he seemed to really command the backs.

    Having been away from Rugby for a while I do not know who Collin is or why he is not being considered for the Scotland 10 shirt ahead of Jackson. Could you shed a little light on this form me please?

  • Comment number 3.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 4.

    Mako_D I think Ruaridh Jackson has moments of real class, but he has hardly played this season after a bad shoulder infury. It will take him time to learn the kicking control of Dan Parks. in terms of stand offs I rate Hutton too from Edinburgh who is a great player. I have seen both of them do extraordinary things but they both need game time to progress.

    Colin Gregor was a sevens expert and has suffered because he can play lots of positions. Fundamentally, though, he is a superb attacking player. I suspect they are both about the same place in the queue. There is a trend toward big players and maybe that counts against him.


  • Comment number 5.

    And I see the team is out now, Max Evans, Southwell, Danielli, Jacobsen and HInes are back. Looks like Max will add that creative spark in the middle and it's big wingers again with Sean Lamont and Simon Danielli. Two Italians in the camp - Da Luca and Danielli. Excellent.

  • Comment number 6.

    John - Now the team has been announced I'd agree with what you say in that we won't look to change much from how we played in Wales (at least for the first 70 mins). I'm please to see Jacobsen back in the starting XV, but would have liked to see Low on the bench.

    While everyone seems to talk about the Italian pack, I think their standout player so far has been Micro Bergamasco. Dan will need to kick intelligently or Micro will punish us with his powerful running.

    On a slight tangent - you note the growth of rugby in Italy and wittily weave together the Antonine wall and people from Bearsden going to see the game in Italy. I'd love to see more people in Scotland both playing and watching the game, but for this to happen rugby needs to loose its public school / middle class tag.

  • Comment number 7.

    The battle for possession will always be won up front and the fact is that no matter how well Scotland scrummage, the referee has to let the front row do its job, otherwise we will end up penalised out of contention as we were against Wales. Murray may be one of the best in the world, but if the referre decides to pin the blame for all transgressions in the tight on him, there is no point in him being on the pitch.

    I expect to see a very similar game plane to the Wales game. Italy will do a lot of kicking, and I think this is where Southwell could well be the key to victory. He is a very strong runner from deep, and often plays short chips over the defence rather than long kicks into the twenty-two. Keeping it loose and open will suit Scotland more and I expect Italy to lose discipline if they begin to fall behind.

    It is crucial that the Glasgow Boys get in their faces early on and we need to go over for the first try in the first twenty minutes and keep building as we did in Cardiff. If we have at east ten points on them at half-time, I think we'll win. I don't expect another capitulation.

  • Comment number 8.

    Play the wide game.

    Italy wont be able to compete for 80 mins with our backs - danielli-evans-lamont but will most certainly match our forwards for the entire match
    Sure you open the game up and it may become scrappy at times but i dont think the italians quite have the confidence that we do...albeit we did lose horribly last time out.

    If scotland play rugby they will win by 15, if they keep it tight around parks with indide balls and hitting up in the centres i think all of scotland will be biting their nails come the last 5 minutes of the match!.

    Good luck Scotland

  • Comment number 9.

    Hmmm. I think it is a good move to bring Jacobsen in but I might have had Low on the bench. Dickinson is a good replacement to have if the game opens up though.

    Which leads me on to the lumbering back 3 we have picked. I wish Robinson had not gone for the option of bringing in a trio who have repeatedly failed to produce anything near an attacking threat on countless occasions. This was a very good opportunity to bring in one of Cairns, Robertson or Thomson and to try something different rather than reverting to players who do not fit into the fast game plan we need to beat the Italians.

    However, Southwell will hopefully clear his lines well and who knows he may even have learned how to look to pass out of a tackle something we can't expect from Cod Lamont who can't pass in open play nevermind out of contact. Still, he does appear to have gained a bit of confidence and is playing as well as he probably can. I've never been convinced by Danielli as he flatters to deceive but hey-ho.

    I'd have liked to have seen Grove given a go at either 12 or 13 with Evans moving to the wing if the latter. I think the strong possibility of Parks reverting to type is why Godman is on the bench rather than Jackson as Robinson knows a Parks-mare is just around the corner.

    Hines for Kellock was a possibility but the line-out has been good, in fact it was excellent against Wales, and this may be the reason why Kellock stays in. Although having Hines and Hamilton in the engine room is appealing in order to counter the strength of the Italian scrum.

    The bench is strong and I hope it will have a big impact. I particularly hope De Luca gets a run at 12. He was the best attacking player in the Munster game on Friday and coped well defending against Mafi and De Villers.

    If we achieve parity in the scrum and can beat the first line of the Italian defence we will win. If we get imbroiled in a kicking match we will probably lose.

  • Comment number 10.

    Theo sportsfan, you are so right. It isn't a public school game in most of the country


  • Comment number 11.

    Dear Mr John,

    I think our major problem is having plan a, and indeed a plan b, but crucially not a plan c ! This is a big mistake, and its costing games and creating excessive hangovers for many of us, and you know who you are.

    For ex. during gametime do you think the coach should locate him or herself in the stands or on pitchside ala Hadden. Cause if at the end of the Wales game Robbo had managed to get himself down to pitchside the score might have been 1 loss and 1 draw !

    Maybe we need to seriously consider buying a bit of time for robbo to get pitchside by employing a full time SRU STREAKER, whose sole responsibility will be to run on the pitch every time there is a crisis (which incidentally im sure will occur this coming Sat !) . preferably someone really slow and ugly......what about yourself ?

  • Comment number 12.

    J.B. How dare you bring back nihtmare memories of treble Latin on a Friday!! I thought those scars had healed & you have to reopen them!

    I think the key to Scotland beating Italy is in their heads and not in their tactics. They cannot expect to build a comfortable lead and Italy to crack and become indisciplined. Losing a big lead at Cardiff could have mentally scarred them and damaged their self belief - but I suspect not.

    I thing A.R. is bringing a professional steel to this squad and will use the painful Welsh lesson to make them angry and all the more determined not to allow it to happen again.

    It is crucial that they are not played or reffed out of the game in the scrum, but I don't think they will be. I think Murray and Jacobsen are up to neutralising the scrum area and with the Italians coming up they will have done plenty of practice in training. The ref will be cautious about over penalising the Scots at scrum time unless there are compelling reasons to do so.

    If Parks plays half as well as he did at Cardiff they will use his boot to play the game deep in the Italian half and play attacking open rugby from there. Their outlook will be like Martin Johnson to make sure they are still in the game after 70 minutes. I believe they will be and if thigs have gone to plan and their confidence is highthey could even score a late try or two to make it a comfortable and confidence inspiring scoreline. COME ON SCOTLAND!!

    And NEVER mention Latin again John!

  • Comment number 13.

    Make love, not war. Amo, amas, amat it again. Hi-larious.

    I agree that the similar tactics to Cardiff will be employed, but I suspect we'll be looking to run round them a bit more than through them as seemed to be the case a wee but there. Max back at OC and Lamont back on the wing tends to suggest this. I'd love to know what Cairns has done wrong, and for that matter, Grove, but it is nice to be complaining about the potential quality we could bring at in at centre, rather than the chaff we are unfortunately landed with.

    On an almost totally unrelated note, what happened at Ayr at the weekend John? Are you able to comment? ;P

    Ad aspera per astra, muses respublica floret etc. C'mon Scotland.

  • Comment number 14.

    Hey!- What did happen at Ary? Do tell!

  • Comment number 15.

    Or even Ayr!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Simon and Persius.........Ayr. it's done but this is exactly how I remember it. We turned up with two teams, wanting to play. We had the same team that had beaten Melrose. Ayr were doing their best to thaw the pitch out and I think they had had a blower on the really bad bit at times since Thursday. Our captain didn't think the pitch was playable, and the referee said the pitch was unplayable, so there was to be no game on the first fifteen pitch.

    We had a look at the seconds pitch. Some of our players tried to scrummage but they slipped, and some of our players said their studs did not go into the ground. As a young and daft lad I might have been tempted to play myself, but the second fifteen pitch had problems too and the referee said that if there were any concerns the game would not go ahead. Our captain and players said they had concerns despite the best efforts of Ayr who, like us have a backlog of games.

    There is a huge amount of pressure on everyone to play games. Final word.


  • Comment number 17.

    Just a quick point, but what does Morrison have to do to get dropped off the squad?? He *always* takes the ball into contact, even when there is a good passing opportunity going (few occasions during the Wales game I was screaming at him to pass). I understand that crash ball a la Jamie Roberts can be a good thing, but anyone playing at 12 should be able to use their heads and not just their physicality, and far too often Morrison isolates himself and gets turned over (although he has been better of late).

  • Comment number 18.

    How boring! And here was I thinking it was going to be another exciting story like building bridge walls 2 ft. out of line!

    Seriously though, I don't think anyone who didn't see it for themselves can really comment on what is or isn't playable, but there is a point I would make.
    In my playing days I often felt there were players who would consider pitches with a bit of frost in them absolutely unplayable and yet would not blink an eyelid at playing on pitches baked like concrete in a hot dry summer!

    This links in with your previous blog on rugby becoming too high on injuries. Playing on concrete in hot summers may make the game even faster and the collisions even bigger and more dangerous.

  • Comment number 19.

    John I loved your reminiscences in previous blogs about fav old rugby jokes ( the psychology call, and the ref saying "our ball"). I remembered another old favourite of mine today :-
    First scrum of the match and the loose head crouches and looks up at his opposite tight head - a gnarled figure built like a brick toilet muscle bound from hours on the weights, and a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp whose only spheech is monosyllabic grunts - he stands up and says " Hang on a minute, I'm not packing down with that until I've heard it talk!"

    Ah,the old uns are the best.

  • Comment number 20.

    I am Welsh and for 70 minutes of the game I was in the depths of despair. Scotland had beaten Wales in almost every facet of play and then Scotland committed hari-kiri!
    I was in Scotland last weekend and was the only Welshman in a pub full of Scots an experienced an exorcist moment when I jumped up to celebrate Shane Williams try. 25 heads turned as one and stared at me - I sat down quickly and quietly - OOPS!
    All Scotland need to do is remember how to win and to keep their discipline. Scotland beat Australia through a massive defensive effort and being honest should have beaten Wales. They do have the players but with the injuries from last week are now at more of a disadvantage (Wishing them well!!) BUT if they believe in themselves then they can and should win. I also believe that they could beat England this year - England are very fragile and ripe for the taking.
    I think positive thinking in this one is the key rather than tactics.

  • Comment number 21.

    How do you feel about not using all the bench on Saturday? If the game is tight and we are winning going into the last quarter would it be fair, in todays game not to use a fresh player. For example if Ford has a good day in the lineout would it not make sense to keep him on instead of changing things up. I wonder had AR done this against Wales, keeping a bit of stability with all the other injuries, the result may have been a wee bit different.

    Anyone talking about playing on pitches baked like concrete in a hot dry summer is surely not talking about Scotland !

    John i hope your blog next week is on how nice it was to see us march into Rome and show dominance over the boring Italians, hailing our own "Max"imus..... i fear it may not.

  • Comment number 22.

    I thought Parks was outstanding against Wales. I still have my doubts though. We all know what he can do, but my biggest fear is his lack of consistancy. Its time now for him to step up another gear and turn the doubters (me)into believers by having another outstandibng game.

    I brought up Parks because in my opinion the only way Scotland can beat any decent opposition is to have the number 10 playing a stormer. I firmly believe if Parks has a good game againsts the Italians then Scotland will win. I don't think we need to change our game plan all that much from Wales. We just need to keep believing in oursleves and learn from the last game.

    I share John's vision for the Italian game, but right hear right now, the Scottish team is still the more talented.

    Come on boys. We can do it.

  • Comment number 23.

    It seems to me that the side which remains most coherent for longest will win, since neither side is brimful of world-class talent or possesses a genuine "game-breaker".

    For my money, Italy's "sweet spot" is in its back three, and that could work very nicely for Scotland in possession. If Scotland's three-quarters can do a good job of chasing long punts to the corner, the Scottish tight five can concentrate on achieving dominance in the set-pieces, and I'm sure they can do that if they're allowed to concentrate on it, and are wholeheartedly supported by loose forwards who are less troubled by the imperative of getting off early to get to breakdowns in the midfield.

    At the very least this will put Scotland in regular kicking distance of the posts; at the very best it will remove the Italian forwards from play sufficiently for the line to be stretched, in effect running at the sweet spot instead of kicking behind it; and in any case it will tend occasionally to disperse the Italians' defensive focus sufficiently for some ad hoc opportunism.

    What the Italians will do in possession is an open question, but I'd urge the Scottish side to concentrate on the basic defensive plan in the first place, and relinquish the safe option in favour of counter-attack judiciously. If the Scots throw caution to the wind, I suspect that it will be they, and not the Italians, who find their resources and effort dispersed.

    I think this is going to be a good one. Hope Castrogiovanni gets a chance to wipe his moustache before the kick-off, and none after. He has to be negated.

  • Comment number 24.

    Nice to know John is obsessed with us English! Did his wonderful education miss a certain warrior called Boudiccea??
    Keep your chippy views to yourself, mate.

  • Comment number 25.

    ExiledTigger, good to see that you were awake in your lessons? Historians tend to disagree over the precise spelling of her name, either Bouddicca or Boadicea, but rarely do they come up with your version? Yes, she organised a rebellion in East Anglia and further, but was ultimately defeated and Roman rule restored - John's comments were made in a light-hearted vein, suggest you park your horse over there and come on down.

    John, I think this will be a fascinating weekend for Scotland - time to answer the question as to whether the progress made thus far has been for real or not. The game plan against Wales seemed to be the right one for that particular job - Parks to gain territory, then attack with bug runners coming off Parks, before shifting it out wide after 3 or 4 phases. However, you have to believe that Mallett will have prepared for that, so what's next? I fancy Max Evans to shine in this game, adding his craft to the rapier threats of Lamont, Morrison, Danielli & Southwell.

    One area of concern for me though is the bench. I'm guessing that Robbo's thinking is that he needs direct cover for Parks at 10 and in place-kicking terms, so Godman retains a place on the bench. Personally I would rather have seen young Alex Grove in there, he can cover 10,12 & 13 with reasonable aplomb, and I would have thought that Southwell could have taken over kicking duties in extremis? This would have allowed Cairns to take De Luca's place on the bench, providing cover for 11,13,14 & 15, giving a more threatening blend of impact players on the bench.

    Any thoughts on Euan Murray's slight dip in form? Just one of those things, or has he been in the weights room too much? Prior to the 2009 6Ns, he was one of the most powerful scrummagers in the world, but the injuries to shoulder, ankle and ribs since then seem to have taken a little bit of that edge off, and from what I could see in the recent Quins vs Saints game, Big Euge came off distinctly second best to Ceri Jones (who?). I suppose at last tho we have reasonable cover with Moray Low.

    Lastly on the fly-halfs coming thru, Climo won't be eligible until 2012, if I've done my maths correct, so I'm hoping that we'll start to develop the likes of Alex Blair (not brother David), Rory Hutton, and Duncan Weir, alongside Ruaraidh Jackson and Phil Godman (who's form has to return at some point?). If just a couple of them can scale the heights, then we'll be well-placed after a long dearth in the 10 department. By comparison, it is interesting to note how both Wales and Ireland have managed to unearth, develop and fast-track their respective talents, Biggar and Sexton, in that pivotal position, both at very young ages.

  • Comment number 26.

    Exiled tiger 1969 - not obsessed by England, but still tip England to win the championship because when they click they will be devastating. It was a joke, my first eight years of education were in an English school in Penang - to which I am going for the reunion, yeehaa. How many caps did Boudiccea get?

    Segnes, like you I noticed Castrogiovanni's moustache, a terrible thing and I think your tactics are right

    tsr 10 - surely we come in peace? I am also not sure about using a bench. In club rugby we only really use the bench if we are struggling. If we are winning we keep the best team on the pitch.

    LittleRew, the undying beauty of rugby is that fans from both teams can sit down and watch a game without fear. I love this game.

    Up and ready to face a beautiful frosty day. Going to Rome on Thursday. A dip in the Trevi fountain anyone? Only joking.


  • Comment number 27.

    Morning John,

    Like every other Scottish supporter, I was absolutely gutted by the result in Cardiff. I couldn't make it down the road to the Millenium Stadium but what I lacked in miles travelled I made up for in decibels shouted.


    Anyway, a couple of observations:

    1) I'm a Scottish supporter but I do attempt to be objective, and I genuinely believe of all the matches played so far, Scotland - although having lost both their matches - have looked the most ambitious, entertaining and committed (along with France).

    2) This is the first time in 10 years I actually believe the Scottish rugby mantra, "we're in development" and "work in progress". I think Andy Robinson's doing a terrific job. We're lucky to have him and him to have us - good mutual relationship.

    3) I'm not sure if he's a pal of yours, John but Jonathan Davies displayed a totally unproffesional, wholly biased and utterly one dimensional commentary of the Scotland/Wales game. I know he's an ex-Wales boy and he's a Welsh lad through and through but for viewers at home, all you could hear was a ridiculous grown man, working for the BBC as a 'balanced pundit', giggling and screaming like a little girl as Wales pegged down the Scottish lead in the last 10 minutes of the game. McLaren class he is not. Composure - none. Dignity - zero. Telly rage - exponential.

    Scotland vs Italy: it'll be a forwards battle.

    I predict we'll win the next three games.

    PS - Great to see Dan Parks back on form! Glasgow are going to miss him (why on earth did they let the Magner's League record points scorer go? Jonathan Davies will be wetting himself with excitement).

  • Comment number 28.

    Nice blog again JB - keep up the good work.

    I actually feel very positive going into this game, for once I feel we are going to win! Like everyone else I was very down after the Wales game but there were a huge number of good things that came out of out of our performance and with a bit more luck on the injury front I think we would have won.

    For this game, I agree with some of the other posts that I think our best bet is to try and open things up. Italy have looked their most vulnerable in the last 2 games when England and Ireland have got the ball out wide and this is what we should look to do. We have to do it intelligently however - it's an old rugby addage but we have to earn the right go wide.

    I am pleased to see Danielli back in (he took the Italians to pieces at Murrayfield last year) - I think he could be a key man. There has been a lot of talk about Parks again, but I think the other important figures are Cusiter and our back-row.

    I am not as optimistic as some others who beleive that if we win in Rome, we will go on to beat England and Ireland. I do think however that we will run them both close, and if we are within a score with 10 to go - who knows? First things first though - lets concentrate on beating the Italians!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 30.

    Well given you've also admitted you can't build a wall either, hence why Jacobsen and Murray will be so vital in the scrum allied to we can bring Hines and Strokosch off the bench

    And here's a point to ponder; in football you can be offside and not interfere with play, Rugby appears to allow this for Ireland, England, All Blacks but not Scotland and Italy et al. So why not make it official?

  • Comment number 31.

    Dave - I think Cardiff came in with the "offer Dan Parks couldn't refuse" and that is why Glasgow could not keep him. I am not sure Scotland will win the next three games, but that, I think, was the target at the start of the season, three wins in the Six Nations. I can't comment on Jonathan as he is fellow bbc and I would get my jotters with a response either way, but he is a pal of mine.

    rob-vet69 Yup, I think Scotland will try to up the pace as much as they can but I wonder if trying to silence the local crowd might come into it as well. I don't think Scotland will play much rugby in their own danger area

    Aslongasbut100ofusremainalive . Euan Murray's predicament isn't so much a dip in form, more it's that he has to live up to a reputation as a world beater now and that is tough.

    davidjbrodie - are you suggesting that Scotland get penalised but not some other teams? I reckon most defensive lines are offside.

    Maybe off for a ride on the motorbike now, paperwork, then filming a reconstruction of a rather historic try tomorrow with John Jeffrey, Gary Armstrong, Gavin Hastings, and Tony Stanger at Murrayfield.......


  • Comment number 32.

    I think Scotland will win at the weekend , however if Sergio Parise was playing I wouldn't be so sure. Two years ago I was at the game and never I have seen one player have such an influence on a six nations match. Now was that because he is world-beater or was that he was surrounded by 29 ordinary players that day? I think a combination of the two.
    Scotland must play as near as possible mistake free rugby, the Italians create very little and live off mistakes. If we can do that we will win by 5-10 points.

  • Comment number 33.

    Oh and John if you need any volunteers to come to Murrayfield and help recreate that try I will happlily come along and stand about 10 rows back right infront of where Stanger scored and go stir fry crazy like I did 20 years ago... jesus has it been that long!! However I would have to insist on a physio being present to deal with inevitable back spasm and or hamstring pull!!!

  • Comment number 34.

    Keep the tempo up, win the breakdown and pass out of the tackle. Just do not get sucked into the other teams plan as with Argentina in the autumn. Scotland(and the pro clubs) have been far to lateral this season, snipes from Cusiter and some straight running from Max, Hugo and Sean to get behind them could pay dividends if our mobile back row are in support.

  • Comment number 35.

    are you suggesting that Scotland get penalised but not some other teams? I reckon most defensive lines are offside.

    Indeed I am! When combined with somewhat mystifying scrum related penalties it does act more against Scotland than for. Hence make offside "legal" or at least consider it?

  • Comment number 36.

    As a Sassenach who went to Royal High School in Edinburgh in the late 1950s - playing alongside Colin Telfer - I'm amused by John Beattie's Latin - shame on you for not going on to learn Italian, John.

    We spend part of each year in central Italy and it's interesting that our friends from Rome are encouraging their teenage sons to play rugby rather than football. Their mamas are a bit worried that injury might spoil their features but they prefer rugby for its respect for the referee, its (relative) lack of cynicism, and the behaviour of the fans. The boys go off to rugby camps for a week at a time and this level of interest should eventually turn into consistent results - it's only by growing up with the game that backs learn the instinctive skills that the Italian team lacks at the moment.

  • Comment number 37.

    John: If I were Andy Robinson, I would be stressing the element of pace. Our backs are better than their backs and speed with ball in hand, while continually running at them, will win the game for us. Too often when facing Italy, particularly in Rome, teams get caught up in the physical battle with the Italians, while ignoring their superiority in the backs. Witness what happened to England last week. Win the ball, be quick off the mark, get it out and run at pace at the spaces in their back line. That is simplistic, but I feel it is the answer.

    The other obvious thing is that we have to learn to close out games (still hurts to think of the Wales game), because we don’t know how to.

    Look at how the Aussies closed out games under Eddie Jones and, closer to home, how O'Gara closes out games for Munster. There’s a specific drill for it. We should learn it.

  • Comment number 38.

    j p robertson, 2pm Murrayfield, all very hush hush......20 YEARS! Anniversary.

    Venachar, Saltireblue, methinks that is spot on....

    Babba umbro, the Italians are going to be huge at rugby within ten years, no doubt about it. I actually quite liked Latin.

    Out for a walk in the cold air, then coaching.


  • Comment number 39.

    Italy 26 : 10 Scotland. I do not think Scotland have the power to disrupt the Italian game plan.

  • Comment number 40.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 41.


    Oh no, filming of the try has been postponed, Borders lads are stuck because of snow. Looking to set it up for next week now.

    Don't know about embargos, except that sometimes they provide all the players and because they then might be travelling or not available later in the week they ask that they are put into papers on different days. Or maybe it's to do with sensitivities around Thom. I don't know the story though


  • Comment number 42.

    John - Back to tactics. Just watched the wee clip on the BBC of Morrison talking about Italy probably playing a blitz defence and his love for going into contact. Two questions; (1) Do you think we will look to kick through and over the blitz defence (in a way we did not against the French), which suits Parks game rather then say Godman? (2) Does Morrison run too straight at the defender, thus ties up only one defender, rather than aiming his runs just off the shoulder of the defender and thus drawing in two or three defenders and creating space for the likes of Beattie jnr or Max to exploit?

    Also - given the weather outside your blog post on better weather rugby could do with another outing!

  • Comment number 43.

    Possible unfairly, but dan parks is my major concern for the game, especially if we do end up on the back foot. He had an absolutely fantastic game against Wales the other day. However, he does have a slow swinging kicking style which leaves him open to quite a few charge downs against a rush defence Italy.

    We get our kicking game right and run back the (often) aimless kicking game we have seen from the Italians (with the support needed) rather than kick it back or throw it away, then i think we could be in for a few more tries. We may even score more tries this season than the last 2 combined, or do i need to take my medicne again.

  • Comment number 44.

    Theosportsfan -

    Regarding your second point on Morrison, I believe this is a good criticism. Take for example when fit, Gavin Henson, he would at all angles and create room for Wales wider players. Point noted.
    Also, if we are playing Godman at ten for example surely having a centre that can actually kick or pass, or generally read a game would help. This would I think still be true if Parks, Jackson are at ten. So, I believe that for us to release our relatively decent back line we need a thinking inside centre.

  • Comment number 45.

    John, thanks for the great blog.

    Was your Latin teacher Mr Speight at Drumley House School, by any chance? We were always in awe of your Scotland jersey in the school foyer...

  • Comment number 46.

    At last a JB apology for being against Italy joining the 6Nations like the other fee paying school numpties such as Gavin Hastings,F calder etc (NB-Scottish fee paying schools are like English public schools(which are actually private,are you following it so far?)I see that the SRU are against Italian teams joining the Magners League,when will these luddites ever learn!Surely you wont allow JB jnr to join a French!! team(see baudolin's blog)dammit they can hardly speak English and did not go to public school(sorryI mean private)I notice you've said nothing about jerry Flannery's kick afer all you said plenty about Dupuy's gouging.Where's the balance JB?For the sake of the development of the game,come on the Tricolores!

  • Comment number 47.

    Theosportsfan - just arrived in Rome, lovely sunny weather today and although Friday is supposed to be wetter it will be hot and fast. I think they will kick over the top of blitz defence and also either get outside it or play inside it. Am a fan of Graham Morrison, great player for Glasgow and just needs to translate that form to internationals.

    Calatibo - all true, my major concern is that the team shakes off the tag of possible wooden spoon winners

    Majesticalmostcasuallymajestic - it was the cane I got at Drumley..yes, I remember Mr Speight a teacher who loved his music as well. I think he taught a bit of Latin and some French if I remember. I was back down at Drumley house on Sunday, it is a wreck now but someone is to develop it which would be good.

    Looking forward to this game in Rome, more of a rugby impetus in Rome now with more kilts and even Scotland flags on the tables in some of the bars.

    Difficult game though


  • Comment number 48.

    Danny - good thought process. Yes, I feel guilty most days about going to a private school and I am not particularly proud of it. Not fair that some people can buy an advantage but that is what happens. Gavin and Fin aren't numpties, they are friends of mine who became captains of Lions tours and they are respected. I don't know if there is history in what they said about Italy, but I would doubt they would want to say anything bad about Italian rugby which is the great European success story.

    As far as not wanting Italian teams in the Magners league, I would have to go on your side and say that the league needs expanded and the addition of the Italians would be great. Am away to check my facts about the impact on European competitions.


    For the record Flannery's kick was almost comical in its stupidity and extremely dangerous. Not as dangerous as blindind someone, but reckless in the extreme.

  • Comment number 49.

    Yes, memories of Mr Speight singing songs in French and Latin whilst fiddling around with his thumbs between his index and middle fingers... (I know that'll sound wierd to anyone who can't picture it.)

    Thankfully, by my time, the cane had been put away for good. Good to hear that there are plans for the place.

    We had some fun on the rugby pitch there, playing schools that had ten times as many pupils and getting tanked fairly often, but also holding our own fairly often and winning a few.

    Thinking of schools rugby, we hear the statistics on player numbers all the time. What's being done to raise the numbers in Scotland? Is the number (32,000 I think I heard) staying fairly static or is it going down or up?

    Re Saturday, it's just so difficult to predict what will happen. I agree with the idea that winning or losing is in our hands, though, particularly with the Italy game. As you say, in ten years that might not be the case.

  • Comment number 50.

    Fair comment JB,at least you own up, I appreciate your honesty/
    Still like to know about Flannerty's kick,incredibly he is appealing against it.I hope they increase his suspension.Agree. Enjoy your stay in Rome

  • Comment number 51.

    How do we beat the Italians?


    PHASE 1:

    Cover the pitch in honey

    PHASE 2:

    Purchase 10,000 trained circus bees to attack at the blow of a whistle

    PHASE 3:

    Sit back and watch the Great Leader Robinson smile as the Scotland Squad run in try after try in their anti-honey boots and bee keeper strips

    It can't fail.


  • Comment number 52.

    Dave, you have read too many surreal books. Is there a programme idea, and where does Sheryl Cole fit in to this?

    Just finished some filming in Rome today, could not find a rugby ball anywhere in the city so we are editing bits now, then off to Stadio Flaminio where, surely, there will be a rugby ball....

    Weather a bit cooler, and the more I think about this game the more I think it will be tough. Lots of Scottish fans around the city, quite remarkable


  • Comment number 53.

    John, John, John.

    You're confusing OPERATION VOID with OPERATION COLE: Release the Chocolate Sauce.

    In seriousness, I think we'll run away with the game tomorrow. Barclay's interview was quite telling. The boys are obviously hurting. I think they'll step up a gear and - hopefully - put the Italians out of sight and lay down a marker for the following two games. Despite two defeats from two, I reckon their confidence is growing; just watching the games you can tell phases are coming together and there's better interplay between the forwards and backs, particulalry the three Glasgow B's!

    Looking forward to it.

  • Comment number 54.

    John - It was good to read today that Tom Evans in now out of hospital and back in Glasgow. Let's hope that there are no serious injuries in any of the 6 nations games this weekend.

    With this in mind, everyone has been talking about the physicality of the Italians and the need to match them up front. But, will what happened to Tom and Mossy be in the back of the minds of our guys. What's the sporting psychology here - does the training and adrenaline take over or will some players hold back a little fearing serious injury? As an ex player what do you think?

    Also what's the weather to be like for the game? Saw a forecast that's talking about strong winds in Europe. Are there to be strong winds in Rome as I think that would change both teams game plans?

    Hope you've found a ball.

  • Comment number 55.

    John, all the other nations have at least two world class players in their backs. Usually at class stand off and a centre that can make the line break for the others to rush through. Scotland has the forwards to compete with any team but for years it has been our inability of our backs to break through and fill their boots. How do we resolve this? Would cherry picking some of our younger talent and sending them overseas to Oz or NZ to do some sort of scholarship be beneficial? Or targeting new coaching systems to roll out to our clubs and schools? For me the clubs and schools spend alot of time with the forwards but the backs are told to go off and run through a few moves by themselves, with no proper coaching......... it shows.

    I second Daves comments on Jonathon Davies and would also throw in Brian Moore as another pundit that the BBC could do with replacing. They are out of date.

    I was proud of Cotter though, all the while his heart must have been sinking while watching Scotland implode in slow motion yet he managed to remain professional and impartial, like Mclaren, all the while Davies was acting like a clown.

  • Comment number 56.

    Hi Theosportsfan,
    I see where your coming from there and agree that this could potentially be an issue but I am optimistic that it won’t. Reasons being is that I am fairly confident that the 3B’s are going to continue setting that bar higher and higher with every game they play. They will probably keep dictating the momentum of the forwards off of set play and with the likes of Euan Muray and Ross Ford being the next players to the breakdown and feeding off of the B’s momentum I can imagine that the game will still be really physical. As for the backs Lamont, Southwell and Danielle have been given another chance at the 1st team shirt and I don’t think they will take that lightly. With them being big boys and all I can also see that part of the game being very physical also. Woohoo!
    Let’s just hope they keep their heads. The game against Wales was one of the most physical and exciting games I have seen in a long time and although I was totally gutted I was so proud to be Scottish. Whatever happens I want to be able feel pride for the team. I think we can all see where the team is going under AR and results or no results this 6N I think it’s a safe bet to say that we will be seeing them in the near future.
    JB – I agree with the chap who suggested that you have another discussion surrounding moving rugby to the summer. Although an outright move to the summer prob won’t happen we may at least be able to shave a few weeks off the season before and immediately after Xmas and move those dates further out toward April. Scotland does not need to worry about solid baked pitches and if that were the case I am sure a little water post match will sort that out. I also noticed that you have offered your grounds to other teams as an alternative venue should they find their pitches frozen, I salute you Sir! I think that this is something that should be looked at in an official capacity. It would help if there could be a contingency plan put in place that could kick in no later than 24 hours prior to kick-off. No match-day cancelations but instead a move from primary site to allocated back-up should the go ahead for primary pitch not be given 24 hours prior to kick-off. If a pitch is frozen it is very unlikely to be thawed in less than 24 hours. Scotland may have large swings in weather a far as sun, rain, wind etc go but I don’t believe we have such swings with temperature especially in the winter.
    Redbud – I like your suggestion about scholarships for our backs and think it should be encouraged but if influence from Oz etc is what we need it would maybe be worth considering bringing coaches over to Scotland that way Scottish expose would be maximized. Can you imagine the stir it would cause if we could employ top class coaches in our schools? Something for the SRU perhaps…

  • Comment number 57.

    Mako_D - Obviously it would be better if would could afford to take the worlds best backs coaches to Scotland but i think the cash strapped SRU would struggle with that. But coaching seems overly forward orientated, and more time needs to be dedicated to hand skills, passing, spotting a line, drawing your man and line depth... all the basics required to making space.

    I would love to see an initiative set up so our coaches at school and club level can attend courses on these topics. But they need to be run by coaches at the top of their field other wise it will be a waste of time. It’s all about sharing information. If the coaches can get proper coaching then the players will benefit. But clearly something needs to be done to address skills at the early stage, once the basic skills are in place they can hit the gym as much as they want. But to many of them are all biceps and no brains. Early skills learning is key, but the foundation is not there for our backs.

  • Comment number 58.

    Theosporsfan - pitch has been soaked by the locals, just back from it. But everyone hoping it will dry out. Very warm here in UK terms, high teens temperature. Yes, pressure on the B's let's hope they can make an impact

    As far as the impact of Thom Evans is concerned there must be a sense of playing for him and Chris so I don't think the psychology will be bad.

    Redbud, I hope we have decent backs playing in a good system, but we are a small rugby playing country, with half the numbers the Italians have at their disposal.

    And as for summer rugby, count me in. ON Tuesday I was standing in minus five coaching West, today in Rome it is warm and sunny.


  • Comment number 59.

    How will we beat the Italians? It has to be by keeping the play going, keeping a high momentum and running at them from inside centre and using our big wingers coming in at the angles. We need to go through the phases and keep their big forwards moving about the pitch. parks also needs to use his kicking to keep the game moving about and use the whole of the pitch. What we cannot afford to do is what happened against the Argies and get sucked into a dour, physical battle up front! If that happens we lose out on penalties.
    Summer rugby, or something similar, is a must but unfortunately the clique of private schools and their rugby clubs will vote against it! My 16 year old is at one such school and is a handy scrum half and so far this season has had less than 12 games with his school team! The school fixture list and the weather has meant almost a complete eradication of their season! He is completely fed up with it and looking at other sports to occupy his time. We need to get this sorted out asap or else we will lose all our youngsters!

  • Comment number 60.

    Thanks for the reply John, but surely all the more reason to have good coaching in place. What we lack in quantity we could make up for in quality.

    Please raise at the next SRU AGM.

  • Comment number 61.

    Why no proper coverage of tonight's A game on your programme? Did you even mention the great result for the under 20's?

  • Comment number 62.

    Oh ye of little faith - shame on all of you. Believe in these boys. AR has instilled in them a new discipline and self belief. There is never any room for complacency and Scotland will have to earn their win as any side always has to in International rugby - but they'll do it. Give them some self confidence and encouragement by showing a bit of belief!

  • Comment number 63.

    Theosportsan - I'm was only ever a journeyman player, but I can't imagine a top level player going onto the pitch with the thought of injury even in the back of his mind - when that happens it's time to retire. Yeah there are definitely some who aren't the bravest in contact and tackling the real big guys coming at them at pace and there are players carrying an injury who may try to "nurse" it or subconsciously protect it or not fuly commit to contact - but the time you are most vulnerable to getting hurt is when you are not 100% commited.

  • Comment number 64.

    James, yes we did mention the Under 20 result, great result and first away win I think. As far as the a game is concerned, we are in Rome and it was up country and the studio here in Rome does not have tv so we could not see the game when on air. Sorry.

    Beautiful day here in Rome. In Beeb with Rhona McLeod - she says she punched her husband in the face last night so maybe we should get her in the team.

    I think the key to this game is the speed of it. Andy Robinson was saying yesterday that the Scottish team needs to keep the pace up and so I guess that is what they will be after.

    Ciao - off to prepare and then down to the ground for accreditation and then full live coverage of the game on the radio


  • Comment number 65.

    Rhona has just read my blog and is v angry. She wants me to stress that it was an accident - she had a massive twitch just before falling asleep!

  • Comment number 66.

    Scotland will score 25+ points this afternoon and send a message out that they are a force to be reckoned with in Northern Hemisphere rugby!
    Scotland to win 25 - 10.

  • Comment number 67.

    Scotland have unperformed here - so FRUSTRATING!I'm so disappointed they did not have more self belief. Yeah - they got the worst of the ref - yeah Italy should have had a man binned & prob another sent off - but they had the ability and he opportunity to rise above all that and bury this Italian side. I hope now that the pressure is off them and they just go out and play - they have the ability to be awesome and a thrat to anyone - certainly any N. Hemisphere side - they just have to believe and go out and express themselves without having a fear of losing. if you've gotta go down -then for heaven's sake go down playing attacking positive rugby.
    As much as I respect AR, his substitutions today were abominal. Nick De Luca has alot to do to convince me he has the mental aptitude to be a Test match player despite his undoubted ability, But to take off Murray and John Beattie at a time when we wanted character and experience on the field was exasperating and beyond belief - I was astonished. They needed an Alex Groves , Webster or Cairns on the bench not De Luca for heaven's sake.
    But despite that this match should never have even been a contest if Sotland had played to half their potential.

  • Comment number 68.

    BTW - Chunk should be one of the first names pencilled onto the team sheet on current form.

  • Comment number 69.

    Persius made some good points.

    I didn't understand the strategy behind the substitutions at all. What was all that about?

    We were unlucky with a few crucial refereeing decisions. It happens.

    The Italians created very little, but made the most of it. Scotland were more creative, but really lacked a killer instinct to convert their pressure in to points.

    Barclay and Chunk played very well. I was disappointed by Southwell's kicking. He's got an enormous boot, but kept making one poor contact with the ball after another.

    We all know how difficult it is to beat the Italians on their home ground, yet I feel Scotland lost the game more so than the Italians won it. We really should have done better today.

    I agree with Persius that our remaining two fixtures in the championship
    should place an emphasis on open and attacking rugby. We've got nothing to lose at this point. It would also seem like an ideal time to blood promising youngsters by way of building towards the World Cup.


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