Six Nations: Cosmopolitan backs at heart of Scotland's rise during victory over Italy

Visser, Maitland and Hogg play starring role as Italy are outclassed in Murrayfield romp

Did you hear the one about the Dutchman, the New Zealander and the Scotsman? Everyone walked into the bars of Edinburgh on Saturday night toasting them – everyone except the Italian visitors, that is.

In Tim Vissser (a native of Zeewolde in the Netherlands), Sean Maitland (a kilted Kiwi from Tokoroa) and Stuart Hogg (a Borderer from Hawick), Scotland have discovered as potent a back three combination as they have ever enjoyed. At Twickenham on Six Nations opening day they scored two tries between them and at Murrayfield on Saturday they scored another two and set up one more as Scotland clicked into dynamic attacking form with a four-try, 34-10 demolition of Italy, conquerors of France the previous weekend.

That makes six tries in all for Scotland after two games –two more than they managed in the whole of their whitewashed, wooden spoon campaign of 2012, as many as they bagged in the entire 2011 Six Nations and twice as many as they plundered in 2010. All of a sudden, the hitherto dour, blunted Scots have found the kind of attacking verve and precision that hallmarked the revival of the Welsh in the mid-Noughties.

Scott Johnson was the attacking coach who breathed new fire into those Dragons. The Aussie is now the interim head coach of a Scotland team who proved on Saturday that, far from being possibly cut adrift from the rest of Europe's elite, they now possess a cutting edge which could threaten the continent's best.

"You can't put in what God left out," Johnson said about left wing Visser, right wing Maitland and full back Hogg, who have 12 months or less international experience and nine tries between them.

"I remember the early days with Wales, when we got a reputation as a free-flowing team. We didn't have people to go the distance. We had to pass a lot. They've got a long way to go and have ills in their game, but some special gifts. If they combine the gifts and improve the ills, we'll have a pretty deadly back three."

Visser needed no second invitation to step inside from the left touchline and take a beautifully delayed pass from stand-off Ruaridh Jackson to score on the half hour – a fifth try in seven appearances for the one-time England schools' flanker.

Then there was the vital incision that Maitland made into the attacking line to set up the second try for Matt Scott, whose centre combination with Sean Lamont is also starting to flourish. The piece de la resistance, though, was Hogg's perceptive interception of a Luciano Orquera pass 10 metres from the Scotland try line and his jink, swerve and sprint upfield to score. The 20-year-old might have the genius of George Best in his family genes, but after 12 caps he already looks like a Scottish rugby all-time great in the making – a combination of Andy Irvine and Jim Renwick.

Johnson was right, though, to keep Caledonian feet on the ground after a record Six Nations win for Scotland – and their first four-try feat in the championship for a decade. Lamont, who scored the other try with a wily hack out of a ruck and chase from halfway, was hailed as a back three sensation when he bagged a brace as a novice international winger against France in 2006 but before Saturday, he had scored just once in 42 Tests.

"That's one great win but it means nothing if we don't back it up next time," Johnson pondered ahead of Ireland's visit on Sunday week. "We did some really good things and showed some potency but need to get it right at the breakdown because the guys can't play without the ball.

"There has been a massive improvement from last week to this but it's still not where we want to be. To achieve the level we want to get to, we need to do this against the guys that do it best."

The flame-haired Rob Harley, making his first start at blindside flanker, the beavering skipper Kelly Brown and the assured John Beattie certainly got the better of the Italians at the crucial contact area – and in defence. Indeed, only when Beattie slipped on the turf six minutes from time did the off-colour Azzurri look like scoring, which Alessandro Zanni duly did.

Scotland: Tries Visser, Scott, Hogg, Lamont; Conversions Laidlaw 4; Penalties Laidlaw 2. Italy: Try Zanni; Conversion Burton; Penalty Orquera. Scotland S Hogg (M Evans, 73); S Maitland, S Lamont, M Scott T Visser; R Jackson, G Laidlaw (H Pyrgos; 76) R Grant (M Low, 60), R Ford, E Murray (G Cross, 70) R Gray, J Hamilton (A Kellock, 67), R Harley, K Brown (capt; D Denton, 70), J Beattie. Italy A Masi; G Vednditti, T Benvenuti, G Canale, L McLean; L Orquera (K Burton, 48), T Botes (E Gori, 48); A Lo Cicero (A De Marchi, 60), L Ghiraldini (D Giazzon, 60), M Catsrogiovanni (L Cittadini, 64), Q Geldenhuys (A Pavanello, 60), F Minto, A Zanni, S Favaro (P Derbyshire, 68), S Parisse (capt).

Referee J Peyper (South Africa).

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all