Six Nations: Italy v Scotland report: visitors fall apart

Azzurri secure first home championship win in 11 years

Italy celebrate their first win in 14 attempt against Scotland. Image: Craig Watson
Italy celebrate their first win in 14 attempt against Scotland. Image: Craig Watson

Italy 31

Scotland 29

DAVID BARNES @ Stadio Olimpico

DISASTER for Scotland in Rome with Gregor Townsend’s troops failing to score a single point between the 27th and 77th minutes against an Azzurri side who came into this contest carrying an aura of understated confidence and grew in stature over the course of 80 minutes as it became increasingly apparent that they were smarter, hungrier, better disciplined and more deserving of the win than their opponents.

This result brings to an end Italy’s 11 year losing streak at home in the Six Nations, and also Scotland’s 13 match winning run (home and away) in this particular fixture. Sam Skinner‘s late try salvaged two bonus points for the visitors but that shouldn’t and won’t provide any consolation.

Scotland now head to Dublin for the final match of the campaign against the champions presumptive knowing that they are facing another two win tournament and will be lucky to finish in the top half of the table. Gregor Townsend‘s coat is on a very shoogly peg. He is approaching the seventh anniversary of his taking over as head coach, and his current contract runs out in April 2026, but he could very easily follow several other senior Murrayfield figures such as CEO Mark Dodson, Performance Director Jim Mallinder and CFO Hilary Spence in exiting stage left with haste.


Six Nations: 2025 fixture schedule announced

Six Nations round four: Italy v Scotland live blog …

U20s 6N: Young Scots taught another painful lesson as impressive Italy run riot


It started badly for Scotland when Andy Christie conceded a holding-on penalty straight from kick-off and Paolo Garbisi kicked the points, but they responded well to that early set-back to race into a 3-14 lead inside 12 minutes.

First, a scrappy ball ricocheted to the right wing and Cam Redpath, Blair Kinghorn and Finn Russell did well to make good ground for the visitors, leading to Zander Fagerson rumbling over from close range after 18 phases in the face of a ferocious home defence. Then, Kyle Steyn went over following a well-timed pass from Kinghorn, with Russell converting twice.

Italy struck back through an Ignacio Brex try, racing on to scrum-half Martin Page-Relo chip through, and Garbisi converted, while Russell kept Scotland’s side of the scoreboard ticking over by kicking the points after Danilo Fischetti was penalised for an off-the-ball tackle on Rory Darge.

Christie was prominent in the loose during the first half and his interception on halfway allowed Russell to execute a 50-22, which gave the visitors a great attacking platform, from which Pierre Schoeman barged in for try number three. Russell was off target with the conversion, his first miss of the championship, and, astonishingly given the way the first half hour had gone, Scotland did not score again for another 50 minutes – by which point it was too little, too late.

Garbisi kicked another penalty, awarded against Christie for not rolling away, although the flanker came very close to making an almost immediate amends when he scooped up a dropped ball just inside his own half and carried all the way into Italy’s 22 l, before he was eventually pulled down by Brex who did brilliantly to not only make the try-saving tackle but get on his feet and force a holding-on penalty.

Italy kicked the penalty clearance quickly and were rewarded with another penalty, against George Horne for going off his feet, and Page-Relo slotted the points to make it 16-22 at the break.

 

 

The sliding doors moment in this match was probably in the 41st minute when Scotland thought they had scored their bonus-point clinching try, through Horne running a classic support line off Huw Jones, who had ghosted through a gap in midfield, but the TMO intervened to identify an obstruction by Schoeman on Italian No 8 Ross Vintcent during build-up to the score.

Scotland offered nothing after that for the next 36 minutes, while Italy continued to crank up the intensity.

Louis Lynagh marked his debut for the country of his mother’s birth when he scooped up Garbisi’s excellent kick through and strolled home unchallenged, and although Garbisi committed a shocking error in hitting the post with a straightforward conversion to leave the home team one point behind, that proved to be irrelevant in the final shakedown.

Italy also did not allow their badly malfunctioning line-out to slow their progression towards a famous win, and they struck again just before the hour mark with their replacements making a big impact. First through winning a scrum penalty immediately after tight-head prop  Giosue Zilocchi and hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi had come off the bench, then through back-up scrum-half Stephen Varney scuttling over from the base of a ruck following a long build-up which featured an excellent charge from Vintcent.

This time the conversion from Garbisi was bang on the money, and he kicked a penalty with eight minutes to go after Skinner was offside from Ali Price‘s box-kick, which meant Scotland were going to have to score twice in order to salvage the win.

Finally, Scotland commanded some possession and a territory but couldn’t find a way through the determined home defence, although the TMO did identify a deliberate knock-on by Federico Ruzza which allowed Russell to go to the corner, for a line-out which launched a passage of play culminating in Skinner propelling himself under the sticks with just three minutes left.

Russell clipped over the conversion and Scotland collected the restart, but they couldn’t get back within striking distance.

 

Teams –  

Italy: A Capuozzo, L Lynagh (F Mori 70), I Brex, T Menoncello, M Ioane; P Garbisi, M Page-Relo (S Varney 50); D Fischetti (M Spagnolo 59), G Nicotera (G Lucchesi 50), S Ferrari (G Zilocchi 50), N Cannone, F Ruzza, S Negri (L Cannone, 59), M Lamaro, R Vintcent. 

Scotland: B Kinghorn; K Steyn, H Jones, C Redpath, D van der Merwe; F Russell, G Horne (A Price 59); P Schoeman (A Hepburn 59), G Turner (E Ashman 59), Z Fagerson (E Millar-Mills 70), G Gilchrist (S Skinner, 70), S Cummings, A Christie (M Fagerson 59), R Darge ( J Ritchie 70), J Dempsey.

Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)

 

Scorers

Italy: Try: Brex, Lynagh, Varney; Con: Garbisi 2; Pen: Garbisi 3, Page-Relo.

Scotland: Tries: Fagerson, Steyn, Schoeman, Skinner; Con: Russell  3; Pen: Russell.

Scoring sequence (Italy first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-7; 3-12; 3-14; 8-14; 10-14; 10-17; 10-22; 13-22; 16-22 (h-t) 21-22; 26-22; 28-22; 31-22; 31-27; 31-29.

 

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U20s 6N: Young Scots taught another painful lesson as impressive Italy run riot

About David Barnes 3891 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

48 Comments

  1. Scotland’s main problem is poor leadership. Everyone goes on about the ‘leadership group’ but until the last 5 or so minutes when we played phased rugby (and didn’t kick the ball away) nobody put their foot down and said stop kicking the ball and giving away possession. But by then it was far too late. Telfer would have been blowing his top!! The box kick tactic is vastly overrated.
    I was a great fan of Ali Price but he is a shadow of his brilliant best, is unfit and should not be in a test team. He isn’t even first choice at Edinburgh.
    Hats off to Italy they played with passion and intent.
    I am no GT critic but he needs a ‘Telfer’ type to provide the ‘good cop’ ‘bad cop’ blend. Franco Smith would not have let the second half performance persist.

  2. Scotland perform well with a very small player base. The game against England was fantastic. And they lost against a very good Italian team. The mistake is to assume that Italy are a weak side. Anyone who watches Benetton regularly (as I do) will recognise how good the best Italian rugby has become.

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  3. Give GT a break.
    What an exciting game yesterday,
    particularly the first half.
    The speed of Scotland’s passing movement
    was incredible. Yes, we made a few errors,
    but I would choose that style of play any day.
    We do need to calm it down on occasions though.

    Unfortunately we gave away too many penalties
    and that needs work.

    In previous games we failed to convert possession
    on the opponent’s line into points but that was better
    today.

    We have been within inches of winning every
    match this year.

    If that had happened, would we be seeing
    all these negative comments?

    Well done the squad and well done GT.

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  4. BTW – it’s not Townsend’s fault that Schoeman took player out off the ball. We score that try we’re likely out of sight and win the game …

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  5. That disallowed try in the 41st minute was the huge turning point in this match, I had a genuine sinking feeling right after the try was chalked off. I just sensed a big swing in momentum was coming and that Italy were really up for this, there was just something in the air. We became passive after this moment and started making alot of mistakes, we lacked direction at times. We must give Italy some credit though they are without doubt an improving side and they thoroughly deserved this win, they dug deep for it. We have no divine right to win against anyone and especially not in Rome, again credit to the Italians for a very good spirited and focused 2nd half display. Scotland will rue some cheap errors and mistakes that they made in this match and unfortunately that was why we just fell the wrong side of the scoreboard. I think Townsend has done alot of good things for the Scotland set up, but is it perhaps time for a new voice? There are arguments to suggest yes, we could very easily be going into next week as grand slam contenders as both France and Italy were utterly there for the taking, we really blew it in those two matches (and very nearly blew it against Wales too).

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  6. Genuinely disappointed today but not surprised. I personally feel some of our players are stuck in their comfort zone, they can play in comfort zone for Edinburgh and Glasgow then when they pull on the Scotland shirt they can’t raise their game to cope with other nations that can. Look at Welsh game young Welsh players raising their game, Italians today ever Italian played out of their skin. Our forwards concern me no real go forward no real offload ability. Look at what Irish forwards do, the Italians done it today. We are just too slow and predictable.

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  7. Who would you replace Townsend with?

    Also we know the deficiencies in youth development but we’ve got to decide whether our priority is identifying potential elite talent really young then concentrating them into an environment where theyre centrally coached and play each other in competitions with a high playing standard or maintaining the strong amateur and recreational tradition of the game built around grassroots clubs.

    I don’t think there is a best of both here. It’s either or.

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  8. I’m reasonably calm about the defeat. The reason is that I had a bad feeling about this game, and so it transpired!
    Italy is a much-improved team, and lots of credit must go to their new coach, Quesada. Their defence, in particular, is top-drawer.
    Having said all that, Scotland lost this game on penalty kicks, plus a disallowed try! Italy scored nine more points than Scotland in penalty kicks, with this indiscipline coming from their front-row forwards, in particular, Schoeman. He was also responsible for taking out the Italian player way off the ball and got the excellent try cancelled out.
    This indiscipline is not going to end soon unfortunately because if it’s not Schoeman giving away scrum penalties, it’s Fagerson. Both are Scotland’s international props and the front row is an area where we are short on talent.
    If I truly wanted to depress myself I would look no further than the score in the Under 20s game last night in which Italy hammered Scotland.

  9. You’ve got to pick the players you’ve got.
    I think a player like Alun Wyn Jones would make a big difference to us.

    A player make you think ‘if I make an unforced error or give away a soft penalty he’s going to pin me to the wall after the game’.

    Who is that player?
    The closest probably is Grant Gilchrist.

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  10. We’re still in with a shout of the triple crown, if not the championship. If we won thst I’m sure we’d consider that a successful tournament.

    Think we also need to accept that Italy were excellent as they have been for most of the tournament, look at how close they ran England. Italy are no longer the whipping boys and have a pretty handy team just now.

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  11. Hugely disappointed, although I have to say that I really enjoyed the first half. I thought it was good test match rugby with two teams that wanted to play, making mistakes and scoring tries. The huge drop off in performance after the break is so frustrating, especially as it seems to happen every game these days. We looked rudderless at times, and made a lot of bad decisions. For me, possibly the worst moment of the entire game was the ridiculous penalty given away to put them two scores clear and effectively win the game. The ref clearly called “use it”, everyone in the stadium knew that a box kick was coming, Price was getting in position giving the players all the time in the world to get onside, and yet Skinner still managed to be in front of the kicker. That’s rubbish. The game was pretty much lost at that point. Huge credit to Italy though, they’ve played some good stuff in this tournament, and a win was coming, pity it was against us through!

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  12. Let’s try and be objective about this performance because before the game I said it would be tight. We started of like a house on fire – high tempo off loading rugby it was a joy to watch and got us three tries. We probably should have been further ahead with the Christie break which should have led to a try if the support had got into the right position. So 22-16 at half time but starting to creak with a few wild passes getting us in trouble.

    The 2nd half started to slip after the Horne try was disallowed. We started to give away a few dumb penalties which simply swings the territory to Italy and on top of that we made more handling errors and I thought Finn had a poor game and made some bad choices. So suddenly Italy were dominating possession. We still could have won however if VdM had considered passing to Price after his break. Not for the first time he fails to look for support runners and prefers to hit defenders.

    This was the best team we had today and there wasn’t much disagreement about it. For me we could have won today but the players on the pitch made too many mistakes at key moments and this has been a recurring theme – lack of consistency. GT made the call on subs and I would have kept Horne on but it was the experienced players on the pitch who failed to deliver.

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    • You are correct about VdM, which has hardly had a mention. A completely basic error in the schoolboy category for a 2 on 1 situation. Other teams this weekend managed to convert similar situations without any trouble.
      Positioning of BK also in same category.

  13. once again scotland grabs defeat from the jaws of winning through lack of leadership on the field who was leading the forwards they should have closed italy down when going 12 points ahead but aimless kicking and throwing the ball about as if it was fun practice cost scotland the game italys tries were give aways where was our defence there was a lot of players not giving 100% today and having joint captains is not working somebody at the top is making all the wrong decisions on picking teams and using subs so he must shoulder the blame for the poor performance of the scottish team

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  14. Firstly, well done Italy. We were awful for almost all of the last ten minutes of the first half and most of the second half. Poor discipline again. Poor defence again. Missed chances again. Under 20s are doing their best but are not getting any better. No sevens programme. Super Series binned. A team plan is pie in the sky. The target should be the SRU but never is.

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  15. I don’t recall being as angry after watching a rugby match as I was today and I’ve been watching Scotland since the 60s. Having nearly lost to Wales after being 27-0 up and failing to put away a very poor French side, it’s become increasingly clear we lack leadership on the pitch that would address these headless chicken episodes. Chucking the ball around like it was netball practice and kicks to nothing were appalling to watch. I did wonder if Price picked up a knock at some stage, as I could have got to the ruck faster than him. Watching Redpath jogging down the far side with the ball in his hand pretty much summed up the whole second half.
    Much as I’d like to blame Townsend, the rot set in before halftime and the subs weren’t the cause of it. How many of the team think the game is won long before it is, I don’t know, but that seems to be the mentality of too many. We may play good rugby in fits and bursts, but lack game management and it’s a very costly weakness. I don’t know who or what the solution is in the current squad, but we certainly aren’t benefitting from having two captains on the pitch. We lost a match we should have won to a not particularly distinguished side and I really can’t think of any reason to be optimistic about our prospects in the final round.

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  16. It’s a weird one. We seem to think that leadership is optional and to be shared. You have Grant Gilchrist on the field with all his experience and smarts and yet we toss the captain’s arm band around and share it with one 21 year old and a mercurial 10 who is notably headstrong? That last half demanded strong leadership on the field and – again – it was absent. Own goal.

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    • Grant Gilchrist. Grant Gilchrist. No go forward, no determination, no aggression. And you want him to be captain. Feck Moi, as they say in France.

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  17. As far as I’m aware, Townsend wasn’t playing today. Responsibility has to remain with the players
    .

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    • Don’t talk rubbish. His tactics, his selections, his lack of picking and using a proper bench at the correct time and don’t forget picking his one of his favourites in the bang out of form Ali Price.
      This game is on him, the struggle against Wales is on him. The defeat at home to a poor France is on him. The inability to do anything with the ball after 60 mins is on him. Japan and France WC exits are on him. But we dare not criticise, rugby values innit.

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      • Hi Billy, of course rugby values can be challenged. You are absolutely correct in your assessment and thoughts on this dreadful coach. I was challenged about Mr Townsend after the English test and I admitted he did very little wrong on that occasion. Today the opposite and to many times this man has got it wrong woefully so !! It is getting rather tedious asking for this chap to do the honourable thing and just go. Congratulations to Italy on a really gutsy and heart warming performance.

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    • What rubbish!
      The HC takes no responsibility for a poor performance?? Thats just laughable.
      Almost every single leadership role known to man job spec states the words ‘accountable’ and or ‘Responsible for’
      HC is 100% accountable for performance and results.

  18. We have been renowned for years for being mentally fragile, and prone to losing our discipline when pressured.

    Coupled with our lack of ability to put in an 80 min performance…

    We hear all these platitudes from Townsend and his coaching team year in and year out about how they will learn and improve from these issues…

    Well Mr Townsend you have had ample time to rectify this, time you did the honourable thing and leave.

    I think we can all accept if our players were not as skilful, as other teams, but to be mentally weak as a collective is unforgiveable.

    Most pro sports teams have sports psychologists in thier coaching set up and have done for years..Do we even have one?

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  19. Worth saying so whilst there is a lot to criticise in that game….Horne n Christie were superb n made their previous lack of starts idiotic. I thought officials chalking off Horne try was seismic n wrong. The Italian 8 chose to engage on Schoeman n was in no danger of catching Huw Jones. If that’s chopped off Ireland will struggle to score many tries (obvs that won’t happen given geography of IRB HQ). That try being scored totally changes the narrative…. again….noone will be more relieved than the Irish tmo Brian Mcneice who’s corruption will now be ignored

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    • Rugby Fan, Horne was chaotic, showed no control or game management didn’t put up one contestable box-kick. Everything that makes him a great impact subs makes him not a test starter.
      Quick ball has it place but when it’s all you have the attack has no time to get in place, we overplay and its predictable for the defence.
      We missed White today.

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      • And that is why it is time for GT to move on. Whose idea was it to rest Whyte? Price is yesterdays man, Glasgow jettisoned him at club level, he reminded us today of how his poor box kicking gifts possession away. Meanwhile Whyte whose stock is rising having been nabbed by Toulon is recuperating for Ireland. Shows massive disrespect for Italy.

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  20. Where do we start with that one. Well we managed 2 points , Italy will beat Wales next week, and we have only humiliation to avoid next week. We still seem unable to concentrate for 80 minutes, we run up what should be a winning score, then implode yet again. The game fell apart with the Horne try, still trying to see what was wrong with it, the player Schoeman knocked over was no where near Jones but it seems to be the rub of the green we get from refs, then a lapse in concentration and they score and the game is never recovered.
    The deliberate knock down , has to a yellow and a penalty try, Jones was through the gap at pace but no. Our best players Horne , Jones and Christie. Not sure what Kinghorn did , and Redpath was not Jones best partner. The front five were good.

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    • We want pin that on a ref, Schoeman knocked over Vincent (unnecessarily) which directly made the hole Jones went though. Itlay then missed that penalty to touch and we had a chance to recover but made another error. So you can’t blame the ref for that try.
      Knock on was potentially a yellow but Garder was objective in his thought process. In no way was it ever a penalty try far too many variables for a probably try.
      Trying to blame the ref today is terrible take and shows the very worst of modern rugby where fans look to blame the referee for player errors.

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    • Subbing off Horne for Price who passed the ball slower than King Charles trying to find the right channel on a small remote for a bloody start!!

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  21. Well played Italy. You wanted it more and had done your homework.
    Scotland made to look shambolic. One or two of the senior players didn’t turn up today.
    Worrying with the U 20s score last night

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  22. There is only one topic to be addressed and it should have been dealt with 4 and a half years ago, the demise of Townsend and who his replacement will be. Poor selections, incomprehensible tactics, no structure, complete lack of discipline, no composure, shocking timing of substitutions, woeful man management, piss poor communication are all hallmarks of his tenure. Now that his protector in chief has gone surely somebody will pull the trigger as I dont think he has the integrity to accept he is just not a very good international leader and walk. Promised much and delivered nothing when it really mattered except for a few wins against England. Arrivederci.

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  23. Lack of clear game plan.

    Lack of leadership by Finn and Darge.

    Three stupid tries. Two off chip thoughts with no sweepers and a poor read by Steyn for no reason letting Vintcent through.

    Lack of clarity in selection. Missed White, on a 6/2 split but wait until 69m to empty forwards bench?

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  24. As others have alluded to, it’s time for Townsend and co to go.
    They have taken Scotland as far as they can. Today was the final straw for me.

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  25. Simples – team is underperforming, the setup is stale and needs reenergised. Can’t change all the players but can change the coaches..

    Time Gentlemen!

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  26. What the hell was that, probably the worst 60 minutes of rugby by an international team in the last 15 years, just awful. I can’t believe that GT said to everyone “ just chuck it about as fast as you can, anywhere, anyhow and Italy will simply fall apart.” Was there any game plan, any idea what discipline and accuracy mean?? You can play fast but you have to be so accurate and we were miles off. Was it Finn’s lack of captaincy to get the team to just settle down and do the basics well once a decent lead established? Just looked a mess, in total despair. Dempsey, Jones, Kinghorn and Steyn tried hard but there was no support or plan for the possession they got. Great break by Christie but why hang onto the ball? If he had let go, Italy would probably kick it out under some pressure, our throw. As it was, penalty to Italy, plenty of time to kick and their throw. I’m sure Ireland will be bricking it next week….

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    • Take it you totally missed the Williams Johnson n Cotter years ??…shipping 60 to a dire England n 59 to a mediocre Wales??? GT is clearly done. Ignoring Bradbury is crazy….taking Horne off for Price who immediately kicked ball away at at every opportunity 6 PTS down is a sacking
      offence on its own. GT is undeniably really good at beating trash like England n Wales so far better than n
      Previous coaches. However he’s so tied into ludicrous favouritism for guys utterly bereft of form and so stubborn against guys who are clearly better than incumbents that he’s killed us for a potential chance of much much better. Obvs the usual servile suspects think 4th is success but it’s really not when you gave world class half back like Horne Finn n well at least 5 of our back 3. Franco would have to be the obvious option (he actually realises how good guys like Horne are and might let some young Scots play – are Cummings n Gilco really more aggressive n dynamic than Samuel n Williamson??). It’s time for a total reset in Scottish rugby

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      • Rugby Fan a lot to agree with. Townsend has been great but probably has taken us as far as he can. Big question of who else is there?
        We need to find ways to get guys like Samuel playing week after week to prove his worth. Some established players are far too comfortable in the Scottish system and haven’t developed.
        But then Franco for Scotland chat and Horne world-class couldn’t be more wrong.

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      • So 27-0 up v Wales and nearly lose 22-10 up v Italy and lose. Where is leadership and game plan. We will get thrashed by Ireland as they will be mightily fired up after losing.
        Time for a reset with GT out . Jamie Joseph might be available or even Michael Cheika

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  27. I’m sorry but that performance was unacceptable from all involved. Team is going nowhere. I don’t care if we don’t have a ready made replacement lined up. Townsend needs fired at end of tournament

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  28. Notwithstanding the improved results in the past five years, Townsend should be replaced after this tournament. There hasn’t been a single good 80-minute performance this tournament and he hasn’t moved the team onwards. He’s living off some victories over a poor England team.

    Losing to Italy – despite their progress – is unacceptable. No plan B, no mental toughness.

    Some players are clearly overrated too – Darge, Jones, Schoeman, Gilchrist, Cummings… have any of these guys actually shown themselves to be genuine international class? Absolutely not.

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  29. See all the so called fans who are happy because we beat England well it’s time for you lot to think again.

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    • Why would any Scotland fan not be happy about beating England? That has nothing to do with today.

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      • Because it has clouded judgement and covered up for inadequacies across the entire set up , how many times have you heard people say , “well it was an okay season, we beat England “

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