Paterson returns and sets sights on semi-final place

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The Independent Online

Thankfully for Scotland, Chris Paterson could make out the sign for Le Glasgow from the first floor of the Hotel de Ville here yesterday. Not that their back of all trades was eyeing a pint or two at the bar named after the scene of St-Etienne football club's appearance in the European Cup final of 1976. Then again, if he can pick out the posts in the Stade Geoffroy Guichard tomorrow night and thread the ball through them with his usual dead-eyed accuracy, the teetotal Borderer might be up for a jar or two of Diet Coke.

As Pool C of the World Cup prepares for what was always going to be its second-place decider, the Scots can see a route opening towards the semi-final – if they can beat Italy tomorrow and then probably Argentina in a Paris quarter-final on Sunday week. Their prospects of overcoming the first of those hurdles brightened considerably yesterday with confirmation that Paterson would be fit to face the Azzurri and that Marco Bortolami, his new club captain at Gloucester, would not be leading Italy into battle in the stadium known as "le Chaudron", the cauldron.

While Bortolami has been deemed unfit to perform his second row and captaincy duties because of a spinal problem, Paterson has made a full recovery from the "poke in the eye" he suffered against the All Blacks at Murrayfield last Sunday. Only the Kingsholm new boy, picked on the left wing, and Simon Webster, named at outside centre, have been retained from the shadow Scotland side that did not fare quite as badly against the tournament favourites as some imagined. Paterson, for one, thought the score was 4040-00, but then he was suffering from something close to double vision.

"I just got a bash in the eye early on, when I tackled Dan Carter," he said yesterday. "I couldn't focus on anything. It was like having your eyes open under water. I wasn't concussed or anything. I've been fine since Sunday."

Which is just as well for Scotland, given the historically tight nature of contests between themselves and the Azzurri (with the exception of Italy's 37-17 win at Murrayfield in February). Paterson has topped the place-kicking charts in the past two Six Nations Championships and is the most proficient boot boy thus far in the World Cup, with nine successes from nine attempts. Not that the former Edinburgh player's worth to his country was the only valuation on the mind of Scotland coach Frank Hadden yesterday. "I've heard that Italy are on quite a lot of money to beat us," he said.

The Italians were still at their training base yesterday, in St Remy de Provence, the town where Vincent Van Gogh painted his "Starry Night". Tomorrow's contest here is a night game, kicking off at 9pm locally – "the match of death," as it has been christened by Gonzalo Canale, the Italian centre-cum-drama-king.

Scotland: R Lamont (Sale); S Lamont (Northampton), S Webster (Edinburgh), R Dewey (Ulster), C Paterson (Gloucester); D Parks (Glasgow), M Blair (Edinburgh); G Kerr (Edinburgh), R Ford (Glasgow), E Murray (Northampton), N Hines (Perpignan), J Hamilton (Leicester), J White (Sale, capt), A Hogg (Edinburgh), S Taylor (Stade Francais). Replacements: S Lawson (Sale), C Smith (Edinburgh), S MacLeod (Llanelli), K Brown (Glasgow), C Cusiter (Perpignan), A Henderson (Glasgow), H Southwell (Edinburgh).

Italy: D Bortolussi; K Robertson, G Canale, Mirco Bergamasco , A Masi; R Pez, A Troncon (capt); S Perugini, C Festuccia , M Castrogiovanni, S Dellapè, C Del Fava, J Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, S Parisse. Replacements: F Ongaro, A Lo Cicero , V Bernabò, L Ghiraldini, P Griffen, R de Marigny, E Galon.

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