Mallett out to hammer the Scots

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The Independent Online

Nick Mallett is not exactly a man you would want to run into in the Eternal City on this particular day, the Ides of March, especially if you happen to be the Scottish rugby union team. After all, Italy's Hertfordshire-born, South African-raised head coach hit Ian Botham for three sixes in one over in his Oxford University days and subjected Scotland to something approaching a cricket score when his Springboks ran in 10 tries in a record 68-10 win at Murrayfield in 1997.

The Caledonian class of 2008 might have salvaged something of their Six Nations season with their 15-9 mugging of England a week ago, but Frank Hadden and his squad are still vulnerable to some serious damage at the Stadio Flaminio this afternoon. It is not so much a dagger that Scotland can see before them as a wooden spoon.

A five-point defeat would leave the dreaded implement lodged between Caledonian shoulder-blades for a second successive season and place fresh doubt on the future of Hadden and his coaching team – stripping away the gloss of last week's victory and exposing such shortcomings as a dire failure on the attacking front. The Scots have just the one try in the bag – matching their lowest return in the championship, a figure achieved in 1957, 1959, 1968, 1969 and 1994. In the Six Nations they have never scored less than four.

Not that Mallett would admit yesterday to scenting the whiff of Scottish blood and a first scalp in charge of the Azzurri. "Our highest scorer is a tight-head prop [Leicester's Martin Castrogiovanni] with three tries, plus one charged down try, so we haven't taken a lot of the opportunities that we've created," he said. "Scotland have produced some very good defensive displays, especially against England, and they're a side that are very similar to Italy. The Scots really play for their country and for their nation – with passion and with heart."

While Mallett was busy running his team through their paces yesterday lunchtime on the sun-drenched Stadio Flaminio pitch (not far from the remains of the Teatro di Pompeo, where Caesar came to grief 2,052 years ago), the Scots were arriving in town with changes afoot. Nikki Walker having been ruled out on Thursday evening due to an ankle injury, Hadden has decided to move Chris Paterson from outside-half to the left wing and install Dan Parks in the pivotal No 10 position.

That would suggest a more conservative approach from the Scots, who have won just once on the road in six seasons in the championship. That was in Rome two years ago, when Paterson clinched victory with a 77th-minute penalty. The king of the goal-kicking fraternity is likely to be the chief Caledonian weapon again today.

Today's Stadio Flaminio teams

Italy

15 A Marcato (Treviso)

14 K Robertson (Viadana)

13 G Canale (Clermont)

12 Mi Bergamasco (St Fr)

11 E Galon (O Parma)

10 A Masi (Biarritz)

9 S Picone (Treviso)

1 A Lo Cicero (Racing)

2 L Ghiraldini (Calvisano)

3 M Castrogiovanni (Leics)

4 C Del Fava (Ulster)

5 M Bortolami (Gloucester)

6 J Sole (Viadana)

7 A Zanni (Calvisano)

8 S Parisse (St Fr, capt)

Replacements: 16 F Ongaro (Saracens), 17 C Nieto (Gloucester), 18 S Perugini (Toulouse), 19 J Erasmus (Viadana), 20 P Travagli (O Parma), 21 E Patrizio (Petrarca), 22 A Sgarbi (Treviso).

Scotland

15 H Southwell (Edinburgh)

14 S Danielli (Ulster)

13 S Webster (Edinburgh)

12 G Morrison (Glasgow)

11 C Paterson (Gloucester)

10 D Parks (Glasgow)

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 A Henderson (Glasgow).

Referee: J Jutge (Fra)

Kick-off: 1pm (BBC 1)

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