Talking points ahead of Scotland’s Six Nations match with Italy

Scotland take on Italy at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday hoping to pick up their first win of this year’s Guinness Six Nations.

Here PA’s Andy Newport takes a look at the big talking points ahead of the Rome clash.

Townsend under pressure

2020 Guinness Six Nations Launch – Tobacco Dock
Scotland’s head coach Gregor Townsend is under pressure to get a win (Steven Paston/PA)

The Scotland coach faced questions over his future in the role after his side’s early World Cup exit in Japan but things have hardly improved so far this year following defeats to Ireland and England. The Finn Russell row has placed Gregor Townsend under even greater scrutiny but a win in Rome would relieve some of the stress from his shoulders.

Hogg’s spill ride

New captain Stuart Hogg asked to be given the responsibility of leadership before the tournament kicked-off but so far he appears to be struggling with the weight of the armband. The star full-back blew a certain try in Dublin when he dropped the ball on the tryline while another slip led to England’s winning touchdown. But he took more care to plant down while scoring for club side Exeter against Gloucester last weekend and will now be hoping to make amends for his national side in the Eternal City.

Cummings in command

Scotland v Samoa – Pool A – 2019 Rugby World Cup – Misaki Stadium
Scotland’s Scott Cummings, centre, could be a key man against Italy (David Davies/PA)

The loss of maverick playmaker Russell following his bust-up with Townsend has been blamed for the Dark Blues’ lack of creativity in the opposition 22 during their opening two Tests. But the hand injury which has ruled out Jonny Gray could yet turn out to be an even bigger blow to Scotland. The Glasgow lock is a tackle-machine who regularly clocks up ridiculous figures in the collision stakes. His Warriors team-mate Scott Cummings, 23, will now have to shoulder the responsibility of calling a line-out which stuttered badly against England last time out.

Azzurri’s awful run

🔵 #Italrugby

🎬 'Scene da un allenamento' 2⃣ giorni dal match allo 📍Stadio Olimpico con la Scozia 💪#ITAvSCO@SixNationsRugby#insieme#rugbypassioneitalianapic.twitter.com/r6J4CQdgoy

— Italrugby (@Federugby) February 20, 2020

Italy are have gone five years since their last Six Nations win against the Scots at Murrayfield. Their miserable run has continued so far this year but while they slumped heavily in their opener against Wales, there were signs of progress under interim coach Franco Smith against tournament favourites France two weeks ago as they scored three times in a 35-22 defeat. As ever, they will be gunning for the Scots as they eye their best hope of snatching a long awaited win.

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