Rugby World Cup warm-up: Scots bring big guns back for Italy again


Scotland have won twice as many head-to-heads as Italy (16-8) from 24 meetings, so Coral make Vern Cotter’s crew strong odds-on 1/6 favourites to repeat their win away to the Azzurri last week now they take them back to Murrayfield.

This price is also influenced by coach Coach choosing a strong side that includes Jonny Gray, Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and, most importantly of all, skipper Greig Laidlaw, who is 4/1 to cross for a try against Italy anytime.

Giving these key players a run-out prior to the Rugby World Cup suggests Scotland are done experimenting and are now ready to gather momentum ahead of competing in Pool B at the tournament finals, which also contains South Africa and Samoa.

Centre Mark Bennett, 5/2 to reach the try line anytime, makes his comeback after shoulder surgery and starts alongside Peter Horne, who was vital in last week’s victory in Turin.

South African-born WP Nel, whose selection by Cotter has courted some controversy, will make his international bow here, and holds odds of 7/1 to cap his bow by crossing.

The prop will be joined in the front row by Edinburgh’s Alasdair Dickinson and hooker Ross Ford, with the latter shorter at 5/1 for a try on the occasion he becomes Scotland’s most-capped forward.

Sean Lamont, 8/1 to be first over, is the only one from last week’s XV to keep his place after Tommy Seymour has been forced to pull out due to back pain.

“The boys last weekend got a win away from home, now we’ve got home advantage and although we’re not sure what sort of team Italy will send across, they’ll be looking at certain areas of the game were we didn’t do as well as we should have,” said Scotland coach Cotter.

“They’ll be targeting that so we have to make sure we front up and give a platform that can attack off, and nullify the strong attacking game that Italy had.”

Speaking of the Azzurri, they won the last encounter at Murrayfield, but are 4/1 outsiders to repeat that. Italy boss Jacques Brunel has already named his final 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup with veteran flanker Mauro Bergmasco making the cut.

Leonardo Sarto is rated most likely to score for the Azzurri in Edinburgh, though, at 3/1, with odds of 8/1 for the visitors to repeat their narrow 1-5 points margin of victory from the Six Nations campaign earlier this year.

Coral’s top tip: Another close contest is expected, so side with Scotland to win by 6-10 points at a faublous 5/1.

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