While the full force of England's Calcutta Cup capitulation was falling squarely on the shoulders of Jonny Wilkinson yesterday, the minimal damage suffered by the hosts at Murrayfield last Saturday was opening a window of opportunity for one of the demoted fly-half's former colleagues. In 1997, Simon Danielli toured Australia with an England Schools squad that included Wilkinson, Iain Balshaw and Steve Borthwick.
It is five years since the 6ft 4in wing switched international allegiance, but his promotion to the Scotland XV for Saturday's Six Nations fixture in Rome represents a fresh start for a player who was born in Edinburgh, raised in Cheltenham and educated at Oxford. At least one half of the degree Danielli gained in philosophy and theology from Trinity College must have come in useful last summer. Struggling for fitness, he missed out on World Cup selection and wondered whether his Test career might be "fizzling out", as he put it yesterday. This Saturday, he will make his first start for Scotland in three years.
Danielli's return to form for Ulster and Scotland A put him back in the picture and earned him a 14th cap, from the bench, against Wales in Cardiff last month. However, the unlucky break suffered by Rory Lamont in the 15-9 win against England (a triple facial fracture caused by an accidental collision with Balshaw) has presented Danielli, 28, with a first starting opportunity since a championship match at home to Ireland on 12 February 2005. It is one of two enforced changes made by Scotland's coach, Frank Hadden, with Glasgow's Fergus Thomson replacing the injured Ross Ford at hooker for what will be his first international start.
The hope pinned on Danielli's shirt, together with the No 14, will be that the former Bath and Borders player can provide some of the finishing power that has been absent from Scotland's campaign thus far. Even the morale-raising achievement of another odds-defying victory against the auld enemy cannot mask the bitterly disappointing return of one try from four championship matches. Danielli has five Scotland tries to his name, the first coming on his debut, against Italy at Murrayfield in 2003.
"I think there will be a few tries on Saturday," he said. "The conditions, I'm led to believe, are going to be pretty good – solid underfoot – so there could be some running rugby. Hopefully, it will be an open, fast game with a bit of ball for the backs and a few tries."
It might not be quite as open as the schools international Danielli played at Hughenden in Glasgow in March 1998. He scored the last of nine tries as England's Under-18s racked up a 56-5 victory. Still, he might even have nailed his international colours to a different mast altogether, had one of his forefathers not moved to Britain such a long time ago.
"He was a guy called Charles Danielli," Scotland's right wing said. "He was a painter from Italy – from Venice, I think. He came over here in the 17th or 18th century."
Scotland team v Italy
Saturday, Stadio Flaminio, Rome, KO 1.0pm:
15 H Southwell (Edinburgh)
14 S Danielli (Ulster)
13 S Webster (Edinburgh)
12 G Morrison (Glasgow)
11 N Walker (Ospreys)
10 C Paterson (Gloucester)
9 M Blair (Edinburgh, capt)
1 A Jacobsen (Edinburgh)
2 F Thomson (Glasgow)
3 E Murray (Northampton)
4 N Hines (Perpignan)
5 S MacLeod (Scarlets)
6 A Strokosch (Gloucester)
7 A Hogg (Edinburgh)
8 S Taylor (Stade Français)
Replacements: 16 S Lawson (Sale) 17 A Dickinson (Gloucester) 18 C Smith (Edinburgh) 19 J White (Sale) 20 K Brown (Glasgow) 21 R Lawson (Gloucester) 22 D Parks (Glasgow)Reuse content