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'There is no one there!': Matt Williams on Scotland's real problem area after Italy loss

By Ben Smith
Louis Lynagh of Italy scores a try during the Guinness Six Nations 2024 match between Italy and Scotland at Stadio Olimpico on March 09, 2024 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/Federugby via Getty Images)

Ex-Scotland head coach and Irish TV pundit Matt Williams has dissected Scotland’s problem area in the 31-29 loss to Italy which cost Townsend’s side a chance at the Six Nations title.

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With Ireland losing to England later in the evening, Scotland missed a golden opportunity to set up a deciding clash in the final round of the tournament.

Italy’s attacking kicking game exposed a big weakness in the Scots defence, with debutant Louis Lynagh scoring from a well-weighted grubber and centre
Juan Ignacio Brex latching onto a chip kick in the first half.

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“While I’ve got some criticism of the Scotland play, I don’t want to take away from how well the Italians played,” Williams said on Virgin Media Sport‘s post-game show.

“I don’t want to get into the ‘Scotland were lousy that’s why Italy won’, they weren’t. They thoroughly deserved that win.

“The Scottish backfield is a real problem. The French kicked through and scored tries, the Italians scored tries. Your conceding soft tries like that, and they were soft because there is no one there!

“If all you got to do is kick through and pick it up, you are going to keep losing. They’ve got to fix that up.

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“The other part of that, we’ve got to give it to the Italians, the Italian defence in the second half was just vastly superior to what it was in the first half.”

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
3.1
6
Entries
Avg. Points Scored
2.9
10
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Scotland failed to score a point from the 28th minute until three minutes from time as the Italian resolve stuffed the Scotland attack.

There was however one key self-inflicted blunder from Scotland, a blocking call on prop Pierre Schoeman that ruled out a try.

That resulted in a 14-point swing in Italy’s favour when they scored shortly afterward.

“The Scots fell into, what you said at half-time, they tried to put the game away early and they almost did, they thought ‘we’ve got this’, we thought they’ve got this,” Williams explained.

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“And then that crucial turnaround from a Scottish error. Schoeman comes in, takes out an Italian player, now he may be up for an Academy award. It wasn’t a dive but he certainly made it look worse than it was. That was a 14-point turnaround.

Player Tackles Won

1
Michele Lamaro
27
2
Ross Vintcent
18
3
Federico Ruzza
17

“All of a sudden they looked at the clock and thought we’re in trouble. And they were. Then you add the great Italian tackles. Some really great last-ditch tackles that saved tries.

“One-on-one Capuozzo versus Van der Merwe there. Every time you think Van der Merwe would just bump him off. Great one-on-one tackle to save the try.

“It was courageous stuff from the Italians rather than poor Scottish play.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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