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Six Nations preview: Italy vs. Scotland - Battle to avoid wooden spoon

Italy vs. Scotland
Saturday, kick-off 14:25
Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Is it too early to be thinking about the wooden spoon? Not when Italy and Scotland are involved. The two meet at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday -- and with both teams without a win in this year's Six Nations, the fight is on to avoid earning the tournament's "prize" for finishing bottom.

Team news

Jacques Brunel has made four changes to his Italy XV that started the defeat to England last time out. Kelly Haimona will come in at fly-half to replace the injured Carlo Canna. Also injured is Ornel Gega, who fractured a cheekbone against England and is replaced by Leonardo Ghiraldini, while George Biagi is replaced by Josh Furno in the second row and David Odiete returns at full-back.

Scotland head coach Vern Cotter has made just one change to his starting XV, with Tim Visser coming into the back line to replace Sean Lamont, who drops to the bench.

Italy: Odiete, Sarto, Campagnaro, Garcia, Bellini, Haimona, Gori; Lovotti, Ghiraldini, Cittadini, Fuser, Furno, Minto, Zanni, Parisse (captain)
Replacements: Giazzon, Zanusso, Castrogiovanni, Bernabo, Van Schalkwyk, Palazzani, Padovani, Pratichetti

Scotland: Hogg, Seymour, Bennett, Taylor, Visser, Russell, Laidlaw (captain); Dickinson, Ford, Nel, R Gray, J Gray, Barclay, Hardie, Denton
Replacements: McInally, Sutherland, Low, Swinson, Wilson, Hidalgo-Clyne, Horne, Lamont

Key head-to-head

If Duncan Taylor can nullify the threat of Gonzalo Garcia, then he will go a long way to preventing Italy getting front-foot ball. Garzia is their main gainline-battering carrier in their backline and when he went off injured against England they looked short of ideas of how to get any yards. Taylor will also be looking to continue his impressive form against Italy after his try-scoring performance against Wales in round two

Key stats

*Scotland have dominated since this fixture was first played in 1996, winning 17 of the 25 meetings, including five of the last six.

*Italy have not won a home Test match since beating Samoa 24-13 at Ascoli in 2014.

*Scotland have won just one of their last 14 Six Nations matches -- and it was against Italy, when they won 21-20 in Rome in 2014.

Form guide

Italy: WLWLL
Scotland: LWLLL

Odds

Matches between these two teams played on Italian soil are generally close affairs -- only twice has one team won by more than a score. And that is reflected in the Unibet odds for Saturday's meeting, with Scotland slight favourites at 9/25 and Italy at 9/4. You can get 13/10 for the trend to continue and either team to win by seven points or fewer.

Fantasy players to watch

David Denton is effective from the set piece and will be crucial to Scotland's chances of returning with maximum points. Italy's fly-half Haimona is also a sound bet for points. He's racked up 49 in the eight times he's represented his country.

Prediction

It will be close -- almost too close to call. Scotland ... or Italy ... by three.