Embarrassed Scotland are left with lessons galore

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The Independent Online
JAMES HEART

reports from Rieti

Italy 29 Scotland A 17

Scotland's selectors meet tonight to finalise a side for the opening Five Nations game in Ireland and priority will be attached to finding a reliable goal-kicker. Rowen Shepherd missed seven out of 10 shots at goal as a virtual full-strength Scotland passed up the chance to build a winning platform and eventually crashed to embarrassing defeat.

It was asking an enormous amount of Shepherd who has not kicked for his club this season and the Scottish team, who "punished" themselves with an early morning run before leaving the medieval town of Rieti, were hugely supportive of him. Craig Chalmers is likely to be reinstated at stand- off with responsibility for kicking, allowing Gregor Townsend to return to centre probably alongside Scott Hastings. Townsend's eagerness to run was commendable but a more balanced approach will be necessary. Up front the 19-year-old second row Scott Murray impressed. Murray has been compared to the All Black Ian Jones by the Scots boss Jim Telfer, who said he hopes referees will allow more scope for rucking in Dublin on Saturday week.

"If we had got quicker ball from rucks we might have done better," Telfer said. "Referees are not allowing us to ruck - we can't put the foot on the ball. But Italy were sharper than us at the back. We seemed to have the game controlled but didn't kick goals to put us 10-15 points ahead which we deserved to be.

At one point, Telfer referred to "Ireland" when he meant Italy - a clear indication of where his thoughts turned as soon as the final whistle sounded on a result which again boosts Italy's claim to a place in an expanded Five Nations' Championship.

Italy: Tries Arancio, Gardner, Vaccari, Visentin; Conversions Dominguez 3; Penalty: Dominguez. Scotland A: Try Redpath; Penalties Shepherd 3, Townsend.

Scotland A: R Shepherd; C Joiner (Melrose), S Hastings (Watsonians), I Jardine, K Logan (Stirling Co); G Townsend (Northampton), B Redpath (Melrose); D Hilton (Bath), K McKenzie (Stirling Co), P Wright (Boroughmuir), S Murray (Edinburgh Ac), S Campbell (Dundee High), R Wainwright (West Hartlepool, capt), E Peters (Bath), S Reid (Boroughmuir). Replacement: G Weir (Melrose) for Reid, 66.

Italy: M Ravazollo (Calvisano); P Vaccari (Calvisano), T Visentin), I Francescato (Treviso), F Roselli (Roma); D Dominguez (Milan), A Troncon (Treviso); M Dal Sie (San Dona), C Orlandi , F Properzi, P Pedroni (Milan), M Giacheri (Treviso), A Sgorlon (San Dona), O Arancio (Catania), J Gardner (Treviso).

Referee: G Simmonds (Wales)

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