Italy v Scotland: three changes to visitors’ starting line-up

There are also four alterations on a bench which sees a 6-2 split

George Horne and Finn Russell returned home from France after Scotland failed to make an impact in an admittedly tough pool. Image:: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
George Horne (left) will partner Finn Russell at half-back against Italy. Image:: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTLAND have made three changes to their starting line-up to face Italy on Saturday, two in the backs and one in the pack. With Sione Tuipulotu out because of injury for roughly the next three months, Cameron Redpath takes over at inside centre. George Horne is at scrum-half in place of Ben White, who drops out of the 23. And, in a back-row reshuffle, Andy Christie comes in for his first start, ousting Jamie Ritchie at blindside.

Former captain Ritchie drops to the bench, where he is joined by three players who did not take part in the 30-21 win over England two weeks ago: back-row forward Matt Fagerson, scrum-half Ali Price, and winger Kyle Rowe. Stand-off Ben Healy drops out of the 23, with full-back Blair Kinghorn covering stand-off.


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While the change in midfield was enforced and Christie’s promotion was expected, the omission of White came as a surprise. Gregor Townsend explained that the Toulon No 9 could do with a rest. “We feel Ben has played a lot of rugby,” the head coach said. “He’s only missed one game since October and going back and forward to Toulon during this period, something’s got to give in terms of a rest at some point.

“We feel this week is the best week for him to recharge – and also with the form and experience of the two other scrum-halves in our squad who have been training really well. George has been on the bench and Ali has been excellent during this period, so we want to give those two an opportunity.”

Like Horne, Christie gets a chance to start after impressing as a replacement in recent games.  “He’s been excellent off the bench,” Townsend said of the Saracens forward. “And that could have meant he was still off the bench, because someone bringing that impact is a real positive for us.

“But we feel with the way this game could potentially be played, more ball in play, getting ball-carriers into play as much as possible, that’s what Andy brings. It was a different opposition and a different game against England, but we’ve gone for a 6/2 split as well so we know our forwards are going to be worked and the energy the subs bring on is going to be crucial.”

Scotland (v Italy at the Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Saturday 2.15pm British time): B Kinghorn; K Steyn, H Jones, C Redpath, D van der Merwe; F Russell (co-captain), G Horne; P Schoeman, G Turner, Z Fagerson, G Gilchrist, S Cummings, A Christie, R Darge (co-captain), J Dempsey. Replacements: E Ashman, A Hepburn, E Millar-Mills, S Skinner, J Ritchie, M Fagerson, A Price, K Rowe.

 

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Six Nations: Italy v Scotland: Huw Jones revels on doing the unseen work well

About Stuart Bathgate 1387 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

34 Comments

  1. Feels such a negative comment section considering we just beat England (by not playing well) and have good depth for once.

    Redpath? No brainer.
    Christie? No brainer, wish it had happened sooner!

    Horne? I understand with logic Gregor gives above. Hoping Scotland are sly enough to make White ‘injury cover’ so he doesn’t play for Toulon instead. Also for all the naysayers against White, thought his box kicking and clearances have been superb so far, really taken pressure off Finn.

    Price, meh, I’d like to see Dobie but given Dobie was injured (for a while) when squad was first announced (I think), I can understand it. And it leads into the general feeling that the bench is made to close out a game rather than chase it (Price / Ritchie / Fagerson all experienced operators) – maybe Townsend banking on an early lead.

    Glad Healy is off the bench, hasn’t been used three games in a row and wastes a spot for a player who may actually get gain time.

    Kinghorn kicked (and kicked well) at weekend for Toulon. Horne kicks decently. Russell is the only kicker still with 100% in 6N. If we suffer three injuries, sure I’d be worried, but what team wouldn’t be in the same position?

    Surprised by lack of Hutchinson on the bench as he is a bit more adaptable, but maybe not playing for six weeks has counted against him.

    Matthews? We were singing the praises of Ashman when he came on against England with several big choke tackles, some switcheroo in opinions now. Hopefully see lots of Matthews in summer tour.

    Back us to win by 10 – get behind the team!

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  2. Do these decisions, or Richie v Bradbury and Ashman v Matthews not come down to who has trained with the squad? I agree I’d rather see Matthews and Bradbury, but if they don’t know the plan surely they can’t be parachuted in …..?

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    • Bradbury ahead of Dempsey – what a joke! Interesting how no – one has mentioned Hutchison who plays exceptionally for Northampton at either 12or 13, can cover wing and has been capped at 15.

      • Who said Bradbury ahead of Dempsey? What people are scunnered about is guys like Ritchie, Fagerson, Ashton for example constantly appearing in the 23 when their contributions have been less than impressive yet others like Christie, Bradbury and Hutchinson dont get the opportunities and when they do and perform well still dont make the starting 15 or 23. Townsend has massive previous for not selecting form players and sticking with his favourites irrespective of form.

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      • Who said Bradbury ahead of Dempsey? What people are scunnered about is guys like Ritchie, Fagerson, Ashton for example constantly appearing in the 23 when their contributions have been less than impressive yet others like Christie, Bradbury and Hutchinson dont get the opportunities and when they do and perform well still dont make the starting 15 or 23. Townsend has massive previous for not selecting form players and sticking with his favourites irrespective of form.

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  3. White hasn’t been playing well for a while…next up Horne rightly given a chance. Price ..I get it..selected for experience..though I would rather see what Dobie can do.

    I don’t get the 6-2 bench with Ritchie & Fagerson selected. GT talking about it being a ball in hand attacking match and neither of them are that.

    Also think would have been good to see McDowell in this one off the bench. Redpath adds a different game to our midfield and is rightfully next up. Sione and Jones , to me are both 13s with Sione shoe horned into 12…because obviously they are both very good players. Redpath is the most natural 12 though imo…will be good to see what he can do from the start.

    We always struggle against Italy….I just don’t think this Italy side are as good as previous ones Ive watched despite their results being close in this 6N. Anything other than win by at least a score is a pretty poor performance, I think.

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  4. My major disappointment is that McDowall isn’t in the 23. Nothing against Rowe and maybe an argument for having a 5-3 bench with both Rowe and McDowall but as it is, if either centre is crocked, there’s potentially too much reshuffling and/or players out of preferred positions. It’s been a while since Steyn played 13 (I think), and Jones spent considerable time at Warriors and Harlequins in the back 3 so definitely feel McDowall would be a better option and if not given exposure now, when?? I’m ok with Kinghorn being FH cover; he’s no Finn but can do an adequate job if needed and has shown he can run good lines from there. Kicking from hand definitely not his strength admittedly, which is another reason I would have McDowall on the bench. Presumably Horne is cover for place kicks though not sure if both he and Finn come off 2nd half, guess the plan is at least one of them plays the full 80. Really pleased Christie starts and hope Redpath can really stamp his authority at 12. Feel a bit nervous but we really ought to be confident with such a strong team, just shows how much we worry about the Scottish playing mentality rather than necessarily individual skill levels.

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    • I tend to agree,particularly if Redpath had to go off.Jones isn’t a 12 for instance.So,yes,MacDowall or Hutchison a much better fit to prevent too much disruption-though Rowe does cover wing and FB without any shuffling about.
      I hadn’t thought about Horne re goalkicking.Kinghorn was excellent for Toulouse last Saturday-four conversions from five with one hitting the post so we’ve got two perfectly good backups there.

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  5. As White played for Toulon at the weekend, the change at 9 is understandable, but I hope someone steps up in the summer tour to strengthen our options in that position. Price is passed his best.

    Healy was on the bench as emergency cover and I see nothing that has changed to justify his exclusion this time. I assume this decision has been made to increase the number of forwards on the bench, so fingers crossed Russell stays fit. Kinghorn is not good enough at 10.

    As Christie can also cover 7, Ritchie and Fagerson on the bench offers more backup across the loose forwards. I would have been tempted to bring in Watson ahead of Ritchie, but he’s clearly out of favour at the moment.

    It’s a pity Rome won’t be bathed in sunshine on Saturday, but I hope this team can keep its foot on the accelerator for 80 minutes.

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  6. Scotland putting out a good side for a tough test. Slightly concerned that Ben White is rested, yet Toulon are playing Racing on Sunday. Is the rest guaranteed?

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    • Well spotted-so he could end up playing even closer to the match in Dublin! I wonder if Townsend factored that in?

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  7. A lot of calls in previous weeks for Horne and Christie to start and questioned Healys place on the bench so should all be happy this week. Ah but there’s always something to moan about.

    Expect a very tough game against Italy whose confidence will be up after their away draw. I’ll be happy with any sort of win.

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  8. As I’ve said before BK isn’t a full back – his defensive positioning isn’t good. But I wouldn’t see the him out of the team. 2nd 5/8th or wing. In fact I’d swap him and Steyn positionally against Italy. George Horne starts at last and hopefully given most of the match to show what he can do. For all he said in the interview, I wonder if Toonie has noticed finally that White gets caught at the back of the scrum/ruck too often and his wind-up pass is slow. I’d have Dobie on the bench instead of Price. Kyle Rowe is a good call.

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  9. Christie absolutely looks the real deal, he certainly caught my eye coming off the bench a couple of weeks ago when he made a surging run up through the middle, he looked incredibly mobile and athletic. I think fingers crossed Christie might give us some real go forward in the back row not just in terms of strength but also natural athleticism to regularly make 10-15 yards through traffic. The midfield should not be too diminished with Redpath coming in, the lad is a fine player both defensively and in an attacking sense.

    Scotland need to be on point this weekend, totally focused and really match Italy for passion and physicality. They probably should have beaten both England and France so if Scotland are even 10% off this could be a major slip up, Italy should not be taken lightly they are playing better rugby and have been very competitive in 2 of their last 3 championship matches.

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  10. The good news for Italy is that Tuipolotu is out. The bad news for Italy is that Redpath comes in. Personally I think it’s a great opportunity to prove that the Scottish midfield can be just as deadly, but in a different way. Christie rightly gets a start, for he is the hot property south of the border while Ritchie has somewhat coasted along and needs to rediscover his lost edge. Interestingly the Mish was MOM for Edinburgh last week but remains outside of the squad. George Horne will add zip to the bullet-firing machine, although the return of Ali Price to the bench is not a progressive move. White should consider himself unlucky, although it is Dobie I yearn to see in a Scotland jersey. Healy is another one who fits into the unfortunate category, playing proficiently at Edinburgh and top points-scorer in the URC. I would rather not see Kinghorn playing at ten again, brilliant full back and sublime talent though he is. All in all no real surprises, but interesting to note the 6-2 split on the bench. A dress rehearsal for Dublin?

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    • Sorry Sonsie but Healy has been awful the last few games for Edinburgh and you can add to that Price. The two of them have just been kicking the ball away and starving the Edinburgh runners of decent attacking ball. Edinburgh are just playing kick and chase with badly placed or simply awful kicks. Healey is not an international class 10 and sits deeper than the Titanic and as mobile.

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      • Fair challenge Alan. I did say Healy was proficient rather than outstanding, saved by the fact that he does for the most part keep the scoreboard ticking over and that siege gun boot is always useful. Hopefully he will return to his early form for Edinburgh, while he was monster for Munster in his final days with them. I’m still disappointed that the Scots lad Fin Smith threw his hand in with the other lot and we still don’t have a shoo-in replacement for Finn Senior. Hopefully Ben an grow into that role over the next couple of years.

      • A lot of Healy’s trouble, in my view at least, is the quality of ball the Edinburgh pack and 9 are generating.

        It’s fine to stand flat at 1st receiver when your pack has go-forward and ball is reasonably quick but when they are as static as they have been lately, it is suicide to invite the defensive line onto you so quickly.

        Mata and Schoeman are the only forwards whose carries consistently get DIRECTLY over the gain line (and Schoeman’s are usually quite small and really only a platform for another forward to carry). Mish looks great but he goes sideways a lot when breaking tackles so, while he is possibly more likely to break the line himself, the defence isn’t normally so stressed that it can’t deal with another breakdown.

        Edinburgh’s pack has not been performing well enough lately and the backs suffer as a result. When the ball is there to be played, the backs have shown they can use it; in DVDM and Goosen we still have two back three players in the URC top ten for defenders beaten. Matt Currie is also well up there in terms of successful carries.

    • Yes….Dobie’s two flat rolling end over end kicks against Benetton last week were genius and something I’ve not noticed from our other SHs. These two kicks caused defensive havoc, produced tries and won the game for Glasgow.

  11. Christie absolutely looks the real deal, he certainly caught my eye coming off the bench a couple of weeks ago when he made a surging run up through the middle, he looked incredibly mobile and athletic. I think fingers crossed Christie might give us some real go forward in the back row not just in terms of strength but also natural athleticism to regularly make 10-15 yards through traffic. The midfield should not be too diminished with Redpath coming in, the lad is a fine player both defensively and in an attacking sense.

    Scotland need to be on point this weekend, totally focused and really match Italy for passion and physicality. They probably should have beaten both England and France so if Scotland are even 10% off this could be a major slip up, Italy should not be taken lightly they are playing better rugby and have been very competitive in 2 of their last 3 championship matches.

  12. Christie absolutely looks the real deal, he certainly caught my eye coming off the bench a couple of weeks ago when he made a surging run up through the middle, he looked incredibly mobile and athletic. I think fingers crossed Christie might give us some real go forward in the back row not just in terms of strength but also natural athleticism to regularly make 10-15 yards through traffic. The midfield should not be too diminished with Redpath coming in, the lad is a fine player both defensively and in an attacking sense.

    Scotland need to be on point this weekend, totally focused and really match Italy for passion and physicality. They probably should have beaten both England and France so if Scotland are even 10% off this could be a major slip up, Italy should not be taken lightly they are playing better rugby and have been very competitive in 2 of their last 3 championship matches.

  13. Trying to run them off the pitch, 7s style.

    Rome to be raining all day, did GT watch the Glasgow game in Italy last week?

    No proper 10 replacement, back replacements “interesting” – only Finn can kick from hand.

    Lack of physicality

    Right that’s my whines out the way.

    Potentially very exciting and could be absolutely thrilling.

    If “it” works ………….

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    • Reply to myself.

      I realise my thoughts will be frowned upon but ive been there/seen too many times Scotland desperately struggling against so called lesser teams.

      Italy will be proud strong and feisty and will look to close Finn down.

      Scotland should be too good for Italy, but it’s a real test of where we are.

      Last year v Italy we were one step from defeat having struggled throughout the game. Magnificent try at end made It look better.

      We will look to run and for Finn to produce magic. No-one else can kick. Given the comparative lack of beef in the centres VDM may well be employed to add his bulk.

      The weather is to be wet, last week Glasgow played with pragmatism in wet conditions – having guys (Thompson and McDowall) who can kick.

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  14. Let’s be honest BK does not cover 10 at international level, he’s a disaster waiting to happen in that position. I hope it’s not close match going into the last 15 mins and Finn comes through unscathed although I’d have thought this would be a match to potentially take the pressure off him playing the full 80 and give Healy a go. Rory Hutchison covers a multitude of positions but could be 18 stone, 6ft 5, bench press a small truck and run the 100 in sub 10 seconds, Gregor still wouldn’t pick him. Seems change for changes sake unless some are carrying niggles but the Toonie Tomba continues. Good luck to the lads, they’ll need to be up for it against a much improved Italy.

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    • Have to agree about BK. He has all the offensive skills but doesn’t make good decisions and can’t manage a game. He carries a threat from 10 when taking it to the line and offloading but it didn’t take long for URC teams to figure out how to shut that down – Edinburgh went nowhere fast after that.

      Redpath would be a better option for covering 10 IMHO, but that would mean Steyn moving in to centre. Hmmm…

      Don’t get me started on Price. He made a poor Edinburgh worse last weekend when he came on and, being honest, he has done nothing since moving to Edinburgh that suggests to me he should be in the squad, never mind the 23.

      Dobie, on the other hand, played superbly AWAY IN ITALY.

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    • What I do is read the article and note what GT says when explaining his changes then comment, I don’t just read the team list and jump to my own conclusion. Redpath explained, Christie explained, White/Horne explained and the make up of the bench explains other changes, quite simple.

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      • Don’t quite get what you mean other than quite simply you disagree with other comments already posted (which is fair enough). Gregor’s explanations are noted but that doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with them otherwise what’s the point of a comments section on an article about selection?

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      • Re Gregor’s explanatory comments if he wanted energy off the bench why pick Fagerson and Ritchie and not Bradbury. Why pick Rowe and not Hutchinson who can cover multiple positions.

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      • Ive done what you’ve done sir, GT answered all questions posed but no difficult/interesting questions like -GIVEN THE PROBABLE WET CONDITIONS IN ROME DID YOU GIVE CONSIDERATION TO ANOTHER KICKING OPTION IN THE 23. – were posed
        We are set up and will try and run, if Finn gets space we will win.
        There was a pragmatism to what Glasgow did in a wet Italy last week, don’t think Scotland have that option.

        It’s simple If it works.

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    • Absolutely agreed that Blair Kinghorn is not a long term solution at 10, for me is a back three player- end of. However he can surely deputise at 10 for 20-30 mins of a match against an Italy for example, I think he has the basic abilities to do so. I wouldnt take that risk against a SA, NZ or Ireland but against a lesser Tier One team I dont think its as catastrophic an option as you are suggesting. Personally I am happy enough to see Kyle Rowe in there ahead of Healy, the former offers much more of a range of positional options and as ive already said, if something happened to Russell I dont think this fixture is beyond Kinghorn stepping in at fly half if required.

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  15. Ritchie’s on the bench guys Christie starts.
    No surprise with Redpath and glad for Christie and Horne getting starts. As suspected he sticks with Turner/Ashman so no bench for Mathews. Interesting to see Rowe on the bench he was a possible from a previous post sorry for McDowall no place in the 23. Price on the bench there is a surprise and no Healy?. Other than that it’s a good team we will need a full 80 minutes effort, since I feel this might be tough.

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