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Alex Spink: Time for Scotland to summon their Warrior spirit against Italy

28 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Alex Spink: Time for Scotland to summon their Warrior spirit against Italy

Beating the Azzurri for the second time in a week would get Scottish World Cup juices flowing, says the Daily Mirror rugby correspondent

Scotland went to Turin last weekend and lifted the shroud of misery they had been buried beneath all year.

Beating Italy 16-12 with a late try in a non-championship match would not normally be the cue for national celebration.

But when you have not won this year and the World Cup is less than a month away, you get excited by any positive.

At Murrayfield on Saturday they play the return match against the Azzurri, their final run-out before Vern Cotter names his 31-man squad for the tournament.

Then there is just one last game, away in France on Saturday week, to fine-tune before stepping into the World Cup spotlight.

Scotland do not have a rich tradition of success in rugby’s showpiece, having not come close to emulating their semi-final appearance in 1991 in the five subsequent global gatherings.

And given that they were whitewashed in the Six Nations and have dropped to 10th in the world rankings, expectation has not exactly gone overboard this time round.

On paper they should progress as only South Africa (world No.4) of their Pool B opponents boast a higher world ranking.

Samoa (12th), Japan (14th) and USA (16th) will each be competitive, but playing matches in Gloucester, Leeds and Newcastle will effectively give the Scots a ‘home team’ advantage.

Tournament play is all about momentum which is why Saturday’s second Italian job is so important for Cotter’s men.

No matter that the side is again much-changed, with 15 players involved who were not in Turin, and that captain Greig Laidlaw is getting his first run-out of the warm-up campaign.

A second win in a week would get the wheels turning under a previously stalled Scottish machine and put distance between the squad and their winless Six Nations effort.

Win they should, fuelled by the desire to avenge their Six Nations loss in the fixture back in February when the Italians scored a last-gasp penalty try to win 22-19.

This is a nation able to call upon players from the Glasgow Warriors club that so thrillingly won the Guinness Pro12 title last season – the first time a tartan outfit has finished on top of what was once the Celtic League.

Kiwi-coach Cotter must find a way to harness that Warrior spirit this weekend.

Then, assuming they fare better than England did in Paris (frankly, it would be hard to fare much worse), there is half a chance of them going into the World Cup believing pool qualification is within their compass.

It is some stretch for Italy to feel the same.

As usual they have been given a horrible draw. Normally they get New Zealand, which hasn’t proved a barrel of laughs down the years.

This time it is Ireland and France, ranked second and seventh in the world respectively.

It is hard to see them getting any joy out of those games, so beating Canada and Romania to third spot is likely to be the height of their achievement.

That is the theory, anyway. But the 80 minutes on Saturday will be a better judge.

Scotland v Italy betting