Italy vs Scotland: Townsend troops to finish with low-key victory
Italy vs Scotland Match Preview and Predictions
Scotland's title hopes were ended by Ireland last weekend, but they conclude their Six Nations campaign in Italy with their sights set on three wins from five for the second year running.
Gregor Townsend's players have had a strange tournament with excellent home wins against England and France mixed with comprehensive defeats in Wales and Ireland.
Italy proved to be the whipping boys as expected, shipping 174 points from four defeats so far, and they face Scotland hoping to avoid losing their 17th Six Nations match in a row.
Townsend has made five changes to the side that lost in Dublin, with Tommy Seymour back from injury to replace Blair Kinghorn on the wing, and Nick Grigg coming in for Pete Horne at centre. Fraser Brown, Willem Nel and Tim Swinson are promoted from the bench to start in the pack.
Italy coach Conor O'Shea has handed a debut to flanker Jake Polledri to replace Maxime Mbanda in the only change to the side that lost to Wales.
Match-up history and facts
Since joining the championship in 2000, Scotland have represented Italy's best chance of success and their record suggests they have a chance, winning five of their last nine matches.
The Azzurri have lost their last two home games against the Scots in the Six Nations though and start Saturday's match as 15/2 underdogs in the Italy vs Scotland betting.
Scotland have won their last five meetings with Italy, only two of which were part of the Six Nations. Sandwiched between those wins have been a couple of 2015 Rugby World Cup warm-ups and a 34-13 victory in a mid-season Test in Singapore last summer, Townsend's first match in charge.
At 1/14 to win, Scotland lack appeal but their odds reflect the reality that Italy are out of their depth in this tournament and a rare away win for the visitors should be a formality. We expect a victory margin of between 8-14 points at 29/10.
Italy have lost by at least 17 points in all of their matches this year and last season did not get to within 20 points of any of their opponents, but Townsend admits his thoughts have already turned towards next year's World Cup and reading between the lines he is not expecting a landslide for a team that has been poor on the road over the last eight years.
He said: "If we were to lose two in a row that would be pretty disappointing, given the effort we have put in. Losing your last game is never enjoyable. Winning against Italy would be progress. It would show the players have learned."
Those words suggest Townsend would be happy just to win and while overcoming a 16.5 point handicap at 9/10 looks tempting, we prefer to lower our sights at bigger odds.
Italy vs Scotland Betting Tip
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