Hello and welcome to the first of two Autumn Nations Cup matches that Telegraph Sport is bringing you live today, as Scotland travel to Florence looking to get their campaign off to a supreme start against Italy.
After their gutsy victory over Wales in Llanelli at the end of the Six Nations, Gregor Townsend’s side are on a three-match winning streak, and they are targeting a fourth today. They will have to do it without two of their talismans, however, as both of their regular fly-halves, Finn Russell and Adam Hastings, have been ruled out of the entire autumn campaign through injury. It means that Worcester stand-off Duncan Weir will start for the first time in an international since the Six Nations loss to Ireland in 2016.
Italy will be looking to at least get on the scoreboard after an embarrassing 17-0 defeat in Rome in the Six Nations in February, a competition in which the Azzurri’s losing streak is 27 consecutive matches, stretching back to 2015.
Franco Smith has made two changes to the Italy side after losing to England 34-5, handing a debut to Calvisano wing Jacopo Trulla and a second cap to center Marco Zanon. Full-back Matteo Minozzi has recovered from a broken nose suffered against England two weeks ago.
Scotland captain Stuart Hogg has said the team will head into the clash in Florence, where Italy famously beat South Africa in 2016, hoping to inspire the nation like their soccer counterparts.
Scotland’s soccer team qualified for the European Championship finals for the first time since 1996 on Thursday after a penalty shootout victory over Serbia in a playoff.
Manager Steve Clarke said after the game he was overjoyed to give the Scottish people something to cheer about amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It has been a tough year for everybody,” Hogg said. “So if we can play a small part by putting smiles on people’s faces by getting results for everybody then that’s us doing our jobs.”
“The big thing which hit home was that we’re there to inspire the nation and the football boys did exactly that.
“Now it’s our turn… How good would it be if we were to win on Saturday? It would cap a great week for Scottish sport and that’s our aim.”