Ten years, 11 months and 23 days. That’s how long it has been since Italy last won a Six Nations fixture at home. A decade ago, the visitors were a Scotland side who were zero from two in the opening rounds of the 2014 tournament – and with no tries scored.

The Scots had lost three in a row in Rome. The Italians were looking for a fifth win in seven at the Stadio Olimpico having knocked over France (twice), Ireland and Scotland (twice) between 2011 and 2013. The odds were unquestionably in the Azzurri’s favour.

Scotland took the lead for the first time in the match in the 68th minute but held it for just three minutes. With 24 seconds left on the clock, the Scots were down by two points with their attack becalmed just outside the Italian 22 – and then up stepped Duncan Weir.

It was a drop goal so perfect, so unmatchable, that Scotland have only scored one more in the subsequent decade - kicked by Stuart Hogg vs Samoa during the 2019 World Cup).

The crushing, last-minute defeat for Italy was the first in a 26-match home losing streak in the Six Nations during which they have gone down by an average margin of 23 points, conceding at least 25 points in every game bar one - Scotland's 17-0 win in 2020 - since that Weir drop-goal 

Italy scouting report

Rugby World Cup

Pool stage: Italy 52-8 Namibia, Italy 38-17 Uruguay, Italy 17-96 New Zealand, Italy 7- 60 France

The World Cup was a fairly chastening experience for Italy, conceding 156 points in the space of eight days in the matches that really mattered. Their capitulation came as a real surprise given their improved form in the Six Nations earlier in the year.

During the 2023 championship, Italy:

  • Took the lead against France with 62 minutes on the clock but lost by five points after a 68th-minute try, 
  • Threatened a comeback against England before a 69th minute try sealed the game, 
  • Were within one score of Ireland until a 70th minute try, 
  • messed up arguably their best chance of a win at home to Wales with two yellow cards proving particularly costly, 
  • Had Scotland on the rack at Murrayfield, with possession five metres from the Scottish line and time expiring – but couldn’t find the finish that would have won the game, then saw the losing bonus point disappear thanks to Blair Kinghorn’s length of the field score.
  • Finished with their best overall points difference for 10 years.

Scotland Rugby News:

Playing wide-to-wide

It may not have made much, if any, difference during the World Cup but the transformation in Italy’s attack over the last few years has made a previously stuffy and limited side into a real threat when they are in possession. Every Azzurri player’s instinct is now set on putting the ball through the hands and, for the most part, getting round a defensive line rather than through it.

This get to the edge offence has seen Monty Ioane carry 34 times – just three players from any nation have managed more in this year’s tournament – and the ability of their wingers to turn space out wide into tackle breaks, line breaks and ultimately scores is key.

As seemingly every team bar Ireland is discovering this tournament, not being efficient with taking chances can be a killer for even the best game plans.

The last couple of seasons have seen the Italians work with a secondary playmaker, usually in the shape of Tommaso Allan. The absence of the former Scotland under-20s player has meant even more responsibility heaped onto the shoulders of fly-half Paolo Garbisi to get the backline moving.

The Azzurri’s fly half has passed more (77 v 60) and kicked less (23 v 61) than Finn Russell during the current championship.

Scotland’s defence has been pretty solid during the championship but has been picked apart a few times – particularly for Louis Bielle-Biarrey’s try for France and George Furbank’s for England. Both of those scores came directly from scrums and Garbisi will no doubt have a real focus on attacking from this phase of the game.


  • Italy have had by far the heaviest defensive duties of any side through three rounds of the Six Nations. They have attempted 542 tackles (114 more than Scotland) with 91 of them missed (32 more than Scotland).
  • Federico Ruzza has dominated the lineout for Italy. The Benetton lock has 15 takes while the best the rest of his team can muster is three for Niccolo Cannone.
  • The most important man in the Italian backline right now might well be Juan Ignacio Brex. The centre touched the ball 26 times against France (15 passes and 11 carries). His decision-making as to whether to attack the line or ship possession on is a crucial focal point of the Azzurri’s attack.

Previous results

This will be the 13th time the two sides have met in Rome for a Six Nations’ match. The head to head looks like this from Scotland’s perspective:

Scotland Rugby News:

Italy 22 – 33 Scotland

Significant stat
222 – passes made by Italy. That’s compared to an average of 140 passes made by opposition teams for matches during the Townsend era. The Scots will know what’s coming but stopping it is another matter. Sione Tuipulotu’s absence through injury means a new centre pairing will be in place. Everyone in the backline – but particularly in those midfield positions – will need to be absolutely on the money in their defensive work to prevent the Azzurri’s attack running free.



Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia, eighth Six Nations match)
Assistant Referees:  Karl Dickson and Adam Leal (both England)
TMO: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)

The Australian official’s first Six Nations’ appointment came back in 2015, the earliest of any of the 13 referees to take charge of a match in this season’s competition.

His previous outings in Scotland fixtures haven’t been the happiest for the dark blues who have yet to win a penalty count with the Australian official.

The Scots may take comfort from the fact that so far in this championship, the refs who they have usually done well with (Ben O’Keeffe, Andrew Brace) have hammered them while a previous bete noir (Nic Berry) was running their way – when it came to the penalty count at least…

Scotland Rugby News: Part two of the preview, including the head-to-heads, will follow on Friday after the team announcement on Thursday.