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Where: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
When: 13.30 (GMT)
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Italy coach Jacques Brunel has warned against a possible backlash from Scotland when his side, including former Scotland player Tommaso Allan, host the Six Nations strugglers at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
Scotland arrive in the Italian capital still smarting from a 20-0 reverse to arch-enemies England at Murrayfield two weeks ago, a defeat which served only to stoke criticism of under-fire coach Scott Johnson.
With Italy succumbing to a narrow defeat to Wales (23-15) and then a heavier reverse to France (30-10), Saturday’s match has been dubbed a wooden spoon decider.
Scotland, who beat Italy 34-10 at Murrayfield last year, will be looking to make amends. After announcing his team, Brunel said Italy are taking nothing for granted.
“Last year we conceded 34 points at Murrayfield, that’s something we have to take into consideration,” Brunel told reporters on Thursday.
“Recent results haven’t been going Scotland’s way, but they’re one of the teams we seem to have most difficulty with. They have character and always play with determination. They will be tough opponents.”
Saturday’s clash should be memorable as Italy captain, No. 8 Sergio Parisse, and prop Martin Castrogiovanni will both set a new Italian record by claiming their 104th caps.
However it will also be remembered as Allan’s first start against the country for whom he played at all previous levels before finally committing to Italy, much to Scotland’s displeasure, at the end of last year.
Brunel regularly champions athletic fly-half Allan, who is gaining valuable senior experience with French Top 14 side Perpignan, as a potential key player for his side at next year’s World Cup.
The Frenchman added: “We’ve kept faith with Allan because he’s played some good rugby throughout the season, as much with Perpignan as with Italy.”
Asked if it would be an emotional game for the Vicenza-born 20-year-old, whose Scottish father and Italian mother met in Italy while both playing the game, Brunel was dismissive.
“I understood from the start of his time with us that he feels truly Italian, even though he has come through the Scottish ranks. For him there’s no doubt,” he added.
Brunel has made few changes to the side that started against the French at the Stade de France.
Among the three-quarters Tommaso Iannone drops from right wing to the bench in place of Angelo Esposito, who made his debut against Wales, with Allan and Edoardo Gori retaining the half-back positions.
Stade Francais veteran Parisse and Castrogiovanni, who plays for Toulon, will both become Italy’s all-time record cap holders with 104 appearancecs each, in the process superceding retired prop Andrea Lo Cicero (103).
“They’ve both had exemplary careers,” said Brunel. “And the thing is, they still have the capability to go much further.”
There are only two changes in the scrum with openside flanker Mauro Bergamasco replaced by Robert Barbieri after suffering a thigh knock. Alessandro Zanni, meanwhile comes in at blindside in place of Francesco Minto.
Teams for the Italy v Scotland Six Nations international at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico on Saturday
Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Matias Aguero, Lorenzo Cittadini, Marco Bortolami, Paul Derbyshire, Tobias Botes, Luciano Orquera, Tommaso Iannone
Replacements: Ross Ford, Alasdair Dickinson, Geoff Cross, Tim Swinson, David Denton, Chris Cusiter, Duncan Taylor, Max Evans