I don’t write this article as a disrespectful criticism of Italy. But after their opening 6 Nations loss to Scotland, a wave a deja-vu must be washing over their fanbase. Every 6 Nations Italy tout improvements, but can’t quite keep up with their ever-evolving opposition. Here we will look at the Scotland v Italy tactics in detail and find out what Italy are doing well, and what they just can’t get right.

Scotland v Italy Tactics | the problem with a static attack

Here Italy shovel the ball wide, trying to play expansively.

Italy go wide with no real threat
Italy go wide with no real threat

This is ineffective here because no one takes responsibility for taking the ball to the line. They make their passes many metres out from the defence, and Scotland simply drift across. In our article on Scotland, we detailed how Finn Russell was a master of taking the ball to the line and drawing defenders in this game. This is really the opposite of that.

Here again, a similar situation unfolds. This time the Italians at least try to use some dummy-runners.

The most unconvincing pod in history
The most unconvincing pod in history

However what results is perhaps the most unconvincing play in history. The dummy runners move at walking speed with their hands down. Scotland just ignore it completely and move up to make the tackle.

Scotland shut it down again
Scotland shut Italy down again

Italy’s slow and uncommitted attack is not well suited for the rush defences it will need to beat in the 6 Nations. Their coach Conor O’Shea can try to fix it, but attacking instinct is only coachable to a certain extent. However as we moved into the final stages of the game, Italy’s substitutions provided a spark of hope.

Scotland v Italy Tactics | Italy’s bright future

Towards the end of the game, Italy brought on some substitutions and began playing with far more aggression and intent. It starts here as Bigi makes a charging run.

Bigi makes a solid dent
Bigi makes a solid dent

This compresses the Scottish defence and leads to space out wide. Substitute Padovani uses footwork to get Italy over the 22.

Padovani steps into space
Padovani steps into space

This all culminates in two substitutes combining for a try. Ruzza shows crazy pace for a lock and takes off. He then gets a brilliant offload to Padovani for the try. This is the type of direct play that can tear apart 6 Nations sides, and Italy owes this one to their bench.

Italy score thanks to their super subs
Italy score thanks to their super subs

It’s clear there is talent coming through the ranks for Italy. But the problem still remains that without consistent attack and a full squad of committed players, they will be stuck in sixth spot.

Now we must discuss the final reason why Italy can’t keep up in the 6 Nations. Their passive game management.

Scotland v Italy Tactics | a passive game management mindset

Coaches like Eddie Jones and Joe Schmidt like to ensure their teams are aggressive in all areas of the game and know exactly what they need to do in all situations. In the article below we discuss Ireland’s military grade decision making, and detail how much effort they put into their roman legion approach.

How Ireland Used their Perfect Breakdown to Nullify the All Blacks

Italy often don’t seem to have a plan at all and appear to be playing laissez-faire rugby at critical moments. Here they have the ball in the back of the ruck. While they’re organising where it needs to go next in a very casual manner, Scotland rush through and steal it.

Italy are too casual with possession
Italy are too casual with possession

This wouldn’t be the only time Italy would lose possession with the ball sitting on their own side of the ruck. But here in a different scenario, the passive attitude is evident again.

Italy have a line-out near halfway on the stroke of half time. The smart thing to do would be to throw the ball around and try and milk a penalty to close the gap. Instead, they allow themselves to be pushed out with little effort.

Italy look lost when they should be attacking
Italy look lost when they should be attacking

Unfortunately, these moments hinder Italy’s chances of a 6 nations win any time soon.

Are we being too harsh on Italy? Do you think they can win a game in this 6 Nations? Let us know your thoughts.


  1. Hi, unluckily rugby is a true game, very harsh in its own principles and so the scores and the reality about it

    As an italian fan i’m quite frankly sad reading such articles but it’s true and, besides what people think, as a fanbase we are very aware of what is said above; italian rugby blogs are full of sadness and frustration when comparing our performances to the other 6N’s teams

    The only reasons we still sit in the 6N is that the format works fine, Rome is a nice city to visit and there is no alternative, as shown by the result (and the performance) in the November test against Georgia

    Sincerely, there’s nothing to be proud of these reasons, because none of them has anything to do with Italian rugby movement’s merit and credit for taking part to the 6N

    Mr Gatland might be very kind for deploying a Wales B team in Rome, but 10 months out of the World Cup these second-choice players will give 150% to show what they got and that when time is right they deserve the call

    About Scotland game, some excuses about sickness among players during the days before might even stand, but squad depth is something we are really missing
    The Scots simply were stronger, the 3 tries in the last 10 minutes are explainable mainly because they stopped playing and were thinking of the share of whiskey after the shower, i don’t think their energy was over

    Hopes are with the U20 trend, which is encouraging from some time
    I think there many players from the U20 who might be very useful in the next world cup cycle, many fans in Italy are asking for Ruzza and Barbini in the starting line-up as they are current protagonist in the Benetton current 2nd place season, but i suppose Conor O’Shea is simply trying to develop some sort of organization upon which build strategy and composure

    Again, this is the time of the year in which i’m happier because of the chance to watch such great matches, but the lack of commitment in the progress made at movement level are really frustrating for us fans in the first stance, as we are aware of what the telegraph is writing or what the 1014 article writes about us

    Still hoping for a victory over Wales 😀


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