Winless Italy still have the firepower to make Scots work
Pressure is off as Azzurri bid to avoid another final-round hammering
ITV & TV3, 12.30pm Saturday
In past years a home clash with Scotland was the one Italy would target for victory, while in more recent seasons the final round of fixtures was the cue for a landslide Azzurri defeat, but both those trends look set to be put firmly in the past.
In the last three years Italy have lost their final match by an aggregate score of 209 points to 45, conceding 28 tries to five, as a combination of Italian fatigue and opponents looking to boost their points difference have been key factors.
There's no need to go chasing the game this time though, and indeed a Scotland team who have scored only 15 points in two away matches in this tournament might struggle to run the Italian defence ragged.
Bookmakers can't see beyond a Scotland win, making them 17-point favourites, the biggest handicap they have ever been asked to cover in Rome. The line has been set at six points or fewer in every previous meeting bar the first in 2000, when the Scots were asked to give up 12 and famously lost.
It would be some achievement if Italy were to round off the campaign with a win, not because they have been so far off the pace but rather because the other five nations have pulled themselves up so much in recent years, none more than Scotland.
The Scots' outstanding 2017 had many punters rushing to back them for Six Nations success. Yet the key strength that attracted so many backers to the Scotland camp seems to have deserted them as their famed attack have managed seven tries in four games - the joint-lowest tally in the tournament, and two fewer than Italy.
The Azzurri have never managed more than nine tries in one Six Nations campaign but they have reached that mark with a game to go and despite a tally of four heavy defeats they have performed well for long spells, particularly in attack.
Scotland have the confidence to bounce back from their loss in Ireland last week but Italy can produce enough to stay reasonably close in what could be a high-scoring contest.
Scotland to win by 11 to 20 points
1pt 3-1 Betfair
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