The biggest shock of an extraordinary afternoon was not Scotland running in four tries for a bonus-point win, or the Scots winning their third home match for the first time in Six Nations history to end the tournament on 14 points. Instead, it was the sight of Vern Cotter’s tears at the climax of a match which marked the end of his tenure as Scotland coach.
For three years the Kiwi known in these parts as Stern Vern has shown his passion for Scotland by transforming the perennial also-rans into occasional thoroughbreds whose final tally of 14 points put them in contention for a second-placed Six Nations finish.
But on Saturday the emotion was more transparent as the usually undemonstrative Cotter hugged his players, stopping regularly to wipe away the tears. It is indeed a crying shame that Cotter is departing involuntarily for France, but he leaves Scotland in fine shape, notwithstanding last week’s Twickenham shellacking.
From an unpromising start that saw Scotland whitewashed in his first Championship, Cotter leaves Murrayfield as the first national coach of the professional era to win more matches than he has lost.
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to be part of this and to work with such good people,” said Cotter afterwards. “It was nice to finish with a win at Murrayfield, but that’s it now – we move on. Greig [Laidlaw] pulled me out onto the field but that [walk of honour] is something that will stay with me. I was a supporter before I came here and I’ll still be a supporter, but with some additional emotional attachments.”
On Saturday, Cotter’s side were controlled and competent but hardly at their best, although they didn’t need to be to beat an Italy side who spurned enough chances to win this game. Stand-off Carlo Canna missed three easy penalties in the first half, and Italy wasted two try-scoring opportunities in the 10 minutes after half-time with the match still in the balance.
Perhaps burned by their demolition at Twickenham, and no doubt with their defeat by Italy at Murrayfield two years ago at the back of their mind, Scotland played the percentages for an hour of this encounter.
For a side which has prospered through an expansive approach, they were frustratingly cagey, kicking for territory and putting the pressure back on Italy, who simply returned the compliment.
There were, to be fair, mitigating circumstances. It drizzled incessantly during the first half, and Italian centres Luke McLean and Tommaso Benvenuti had clearly learnt from England, rushing out to stop Finn Russell’s long miss-pass to outside-centre. So Scotland bided their time and kept the scoreboard ticking over.
Their first opportunity came after five minutes when their scrum destroyed Italy’s and Hogg kicked a long-range penalty. As well as more than holding their own at the scrum, Scotland took three Italian line-outs in the opening minutes, so happily there was little kicking for touch.
After Canna missed his first simple penalty, Huw Jones broke through and almost went over but pulled up when his hamstring went. No matter, man-of-the-match Russell scored the first try when he scuttled between two tacklers out wide before converting his own try.
Shortly after Canna missed another easy penalty, Matt Scott put Scotland 15 points clear. Jonny Gray beat Sergio Parisse to an Italian line-out throw in their 22, Russell was held up just short and then Hogg beat Giovanbattista Venditti to scrum-half Ali Price’s crosskick, the full-back knocking the ball down for the replacement centre to claim Scotland’s second try.
A half in which Italy had more possession and territory ended with Canna missing a third simple penalty, but the beginning of the second half was even more frustrating for Italy.
The visitors applied so much pressure that John Barclay was yellow-carded for dragging down a try-bound line-out drive, and Italy camped on Scotland’s line for long periods.
They should have scored two tries, both of which started with a huge overlap but ended with Hogg putting in try-saving tackles on the unfortunate Angelo Esposito in the corner.
That, in a nutshell, was the match: Italy missed three simple penalties, squandered two try-scoring chances, and failed to score any points despite 20 minutes of pressure either side of half-time.
Scotland, by contrast, were clinical. Their third try came when Hogg kicked ahead from halfway and Tim Visser won the footrace. The fourth came with eight minutes to go with Scotland now completely in the ascendant, when Hogg – who had the last touch in three tries – made the extra man and put Tommy Seymour in for a well-worked try.
It was difficult not to feel some sympathy for Italy, who were far better than the final score suggested. “There was very little in the game at half-time and we dominated the first 15-20 minutes of the second half and got a yellow card, but came away with nothing,” said Italy coach Conor O’Shea.
“It’s difficult to take, and the gap is not insurmountable, but it’s very, very hard to take because we didn’t warrant 29-0 today.”
To be fair, he had a point. But if Italy and O’Shea need an example of how a good coach can change a national team’s culture and fortunes, he need only look at the transformation that Cotter has wrought on Scotland. The New Zealander will be much missed.
A teary farewell from Cotter
The head coach strolls out to interrupt a post-match interview with John Barclay. His eyes are red and his words are choked.
"I'd like to thank the players for the last three years. It's been great fun and I've really enjoyed it," he says before ambling away to embrace his players and staff.
A nadir for Italian rugby?
The last time the Azzurri failed to score was in 2004.
Man of the Match Finn Russell
Great performance from the boys today. We wanted a bonus point to finish higher up in the competition.
We were really disappointed after last week. It was Vern's last game so it was great for us to come back here and put in a bonus point performance.
FULL TIME Scotland 29 - 0 Italy
The game ends, predictably, with a knock on from the Italians.
Hand shakes and back slaps all round between the Scotland team.
79 min: Scotland 29 - 0 Italy
Duncan Weir gets a good boot in to take Scotland to half way.
Finn Russell gets MoM. Could have gone to him or Hogg. Fair call either way. The fly half has bounced back well from a chastening outing at Twickenham.
77 min: Scotland 29 - 0 Italy
Good defence from Scotland earns them a penalty. The home side giving their coach a big send off here.
Greg Laidlaw's face pops up on the big screen to huge cheers from the crowd.
A word from Andy Nicol on the departing Vern Cotter.
He's done a great job. The stadium is full, there's vibrancy about the place. Scotland are playing attacking rugby and there's a good age balance to the squad.
My goodness he's leaving on a high and he deserves great credit.
Seymour TRY Russell CONVERSION 74 min: Scotland 29 - 0 Italy
Barclay gets himself involved with a few carries. Quick ball goes to Russell whose quick hands sends it to Hogg and the full back times his pass to Seymour perfectly. The wing strolls over unopposed. That's the bonus point.
Correction: Fuser went off earlier, not Steyn.
Matt Scott has gone off injured. Duncan Weir his replacement. He's on at 10 and Russell moved to 12, with Dunbar shifted to 13.
72 min: Scotland 22 - 0 Italy
Scotland darting around the Italian 22. J Gray and Berghan taking the ball into contact, keeping it tight through the forwards before the ball goes blind to Matt Scott. Alan Dell and Tim Swinson carry up to the five metre line.
Smouldering from Parisse...
69 min: Scotland 22 - 0 Italy
It's the knock-on effect at the moment. Scotland offending first before Italy follow suit. Scrum to the visitors inside their 22.
Any others to include?
Thoughts on Sco Lions watch?— rugby (@theblitzdefence) March 18, 2017
On plane: Hogg, R Gray
Maybe: Seymour, Russell, J Gray
Outsiders: Dunbar, Watson, Fagerson, Visser#scovita
68 min: Scotland 22 - 0 Italy
Clean line out ball claimed by Barclay who pops it down to Du Preez who has a gander at the Italian line. Fraser Brown makes an immediate impact, carrying hard to the Italian line.
Dunbar juggles out wide and Biagi is penalised for collaring him high.
Russell kicks for touch as Scotland push for the bonus point. I think we approve of that innovation.
65 min: Scotland 22 - 0 Italy
Strong scrum from Scotland and Italy are pinged for wheeling the scrum, as their wheels come off.
Fraser Brown on for Ross Ford and Simon Berghan on for Zander Fagerson.
Russell CONVERSION 63 min: Scotland 22 - 0 Italy
Another good kick from Russell, 10 metres in from touch on the left. Showing Canna how it's done.
The aptly named Sami Panico comes on in the front row for Italy. Lovotti goes off.
Sperandio comes on in the backline for poor ol' Carlo Canna. A day to forget for him.
Visser TRY 62 min: Scotland 20 - 0 Italy
Visser was behind the kicker and the ball went backwards off Italian hands. Visser dotted down unopposed. Smart kick from Hogg, turning the Italian defence.
62 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Possibly a try here for Scotland. Hogg chips ahead and its a foot race between Visser and Venditti. Visser looks to have got there...
"Any reason why I cannot award the try," asks Gauzere.
61 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Another delicate chip from Russell, who has managed this game well for his side. The ball scoots into touch inside the Italian 22.
Barclay is back on and Scotland survive his binning unscathed.
59 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Loose pass in midfield allows Italy to counter. They get out of the 22 and boot is put to ball. Hogg gathers cleanly and runs it back at them.
The sun is out now, but handling doesn't look any easier. Kicking still dominant.
Russell shows some good feet, stepping a couple of Italian defenders.
58 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Scotland gain a precious penalty and Russell puts in a massive kick and gets Scotland into the Italian 22. Finally a bit of territory for the home side.
Swinson on for Gilchrist.
56 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Dunbar strips. In rugby terms only. Visser gets away with a probable knock on but it's ruled to be off his shin. He puts the kick in but is taken out by the touch judge. Definite yellow that.
Scotland into the Italian half with three minutes of Barclay's bin-time to go.
Alan Dell on for Gordon Reid.
55 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Hogg sticks a big boot in, taking play up to the ten metre line from within his own in-goal area. Fist pump from Stu. He loves it. Outstanding game from the full back thus far.
Henry Pyrgos on for Ali Price, who also put in a decent stint for his side, kicking and sniping like number 9s do.
53 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
How have Italy not scored? After their forwards draw in the Scottish defence the ball goes wide to Esposito again. He's scragged again by Hogg, but he gets the offload to Padovani who can't gather despite the inattention of Scottish defenders.
Minto and van Schalkwyk on for Mbanda and Steyn.
51' Take a bow, Stuart Hogg. Another sublime tackle to stop his opposite man scoring - huge moment! #SCOvITA (15-0)— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) March 18, 2017
51 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Gega goes to the front of the line out where Steyn takes it in. Canna tries a chip, it goes nowhere but McLean gathers in. Referee takes it back for ANOTHER penalty. Stop it Scotland. Grant Gilchrist playing the man in the air at the line out. Sort it.
Barclay SIN BIN 50 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
The captain had just been warned over repeating offences in the red zone. True to his word, Guazere sends Barclay to the bin for going in off his feet.
Cornell du Preez on for Ryan Wilson for Scotland.
47' Incredible tackle from Stuart Hogg and Matt Scott to hold-up Italy's Esposito over the line! #SCOvITA (15-0)— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) March 18, 2017
49 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
The Italians made an absolute meal out of that. A proper Roman feast. They had a two man overlap on the right, but the passes are behind their men and too early, allowing the Scots to drift. Hogg holds up Esposito over the line, with assistance from Matt Scott.
48 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Gega has sorted out his throwing. Italy barrel their way forwards through the maul but it collapses, legally, inches short...
47 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Italy need to get a score from this position. They gain another penalty and there's a touch of handbags. Another line out five out for the visitors...
46 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Italy get the maul going, Parisse at the forefront, unsurprisingly. The number eight breaks away before Marco Fuser gains more ground. Italy get a penalty, an eminently kickable one, but Parisse has lost faith in Canna and opts for the line out.
44 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Scotland pinned back on their own five metre line, smothered by the Italian defence. Hogg slices his clearance and can't clear his 22. Good position for a drive here...
41 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Spillage! That was a little embarrassing for Padovani. He just had to pick up a static ball. No luck. It is, of course, Slippery When Wet.
Italy have made a change in their front row. Chistolini on for Cittadini at tighthead.
Commodores > Bon Jovi
Can Italy turn it around?
Unlikely. Scotland have won all their Tests when leading by 15 points or more at half time. But stick around to find out anyway.
Injured Scotland captain Greg Laidlaw
It's a good scoreline for us. Italy have been missing some kicks so I expect them to go for touch in the second half. They've had some success from their driving maul.
Running rugby will be difficult. It does dry out quick here but it won't do so before the end of this game. We've run a couple of nice lines in the backs when we do get the ball, so hopefully we'll see a bit more of that.
Former Scotland full back Chris Paterson:
Hogg has kicked well both off the tee and out of hand. There's a huge roar that goes up when he gets the ball and sometimes that can encourage you to run, but he's kicked at the right times.
Kicking conundrum for Italians
Who wouldn't want Sergio Parisse's arms wrapped around them? Lucky Carlo.
If you say the following in a Scottish accent it works just about perfectly...
HALF TIME Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Nope. Hooked it again. Parisse puts his arm around his disconsolate fly half as the teams leave the field for half time.
40 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Scotland's defence untroubled. Fagerson leading from the front (row) with some good blitzing. Italy continue to probe and are awarded the penalty as Tommy Seymour is penalised for not releasing.
This is a tougher kick than the previous two for Canna. He looks a little reluctant. Wide left as it is.
3 - Three of Matt Scott's five tries for @Scotlandteam have come against Italy. Preferential.— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) March 18, 2017
40 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Italy ending the half with possession and territory. Esposito makes a mini-break, carrying his side into the Scotland 22...
Scott TRY Russell MISSED CONVERSION 39 min: Scotland 15 - 0 Italy
Russell stopped just short. Ali Price causing Italian defenders all sorts of problems, scooting around the rucks. He then puts over an audacious dink with the penalty advantage in his favour. Hogg rises and knocks the ball back, albeit inadvertently, to Matt Scott who drops on the loose ball to score.
Russell can't quite convert from wide.
37 min: Scotland 10 - 0 Italy
Padovani vs Hogg in the kicking contest. Hogg wins. A wonderful kick from his own 22 finds unmanned pastures and Scotland have an opportunity to put the Italian line out under more pressure deep inside their own territory.
Once again it goes awry and Scotland have the ball through their forwards, pushing for another score before half time.
35 min: Scotland 10 - 0 Italy
More ping pong. Not the most attractive game this.
Why cant Italy of all nations find a bloody goalkicker!— Brendan gallagher (@gallagherbren) March 18, 2017
33 min: Scotland 10 - 0 Italy
Wow. Canna should swap the number on his shirt because he's hooking everything at the moment.
"Make no mistake, those are two pretty simple kicks for an international fly-half. 10-6 would be a very different game," says Nicol.
32 min: Scotland 10 - 0 Italy
TMO checking for obstruction as Jonny Gray shields a jumping Finn Russell from the chase of Sergio Parisse. We go back for a penalty right in front of the Scottish posts. Gray had a cheeky look and changed his direction. Definite penalty.
Canna needs to nail this.
31 min: Scotland 10 - 0 Italy
That score has given the Scots some confidence. A bit more ambition in their play and the home side take the game back into Italian territory...
29 min: Scotland 10 - 0 Italy 1:03PM
Russell TRY & CONVERSION 29 min: Scotland 10 - 0 Italy
Finn Russell wriggles his way through. Alex Dunbar does well to draw in some defenders and Ali Price goes blindside from the breakdown and Russell takes advantage of the numbers to go over.
He then composes himself to bend in a tricky conversion from out wide.
28 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
Gilchrist takes it in and Hamish Watson almost squeaks through a gap in the defence. Scotland pounding the five metre line through their forwards...
27 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
Huw Jones finally breaks through the Italian line but slips as he tries to sidestep the last defender. The ball is recycled to Russell who puts in a crossfield kick to Tim Visser, who easily out-jumps Esposito but spills that bar of soap. The referee brings the game back for the penalty advantage and Scotland go for the drive from a five metre line out...
That will be Huw Jones' last action, who seems to have injured himself as he slipped. Gone over on his ankle by the looks of things. Gloucester's Matt Scott his replacement.
25 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
First real action for Scotland's backs. Dunbar and Jones get their hands on the ball and make good ground, carrying the ball up to the Italian 22. Russell nearly gets an offload to put the attack clear, but is scragged just in time. Scotland keep it around the fringes, probing patiently for now. Conditions hampering their width. 16 phases through and the home side continue to hammer away on the 22...
22 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
Hideous kick from Canna, who drags it badly. Italy are at 56% for kicks in this Championship. You can't win games with those percentages.
Italy dominating territory at the moment, but it's another mess at the line out from the Azzurri, this time penalised for delaying the throw.
19 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
Quickly taken penalty from Gori has Scotland scrambling back. Gauzere awards the visitors a penalty after Scotland go in off their feet at the breakdown. Should be a straightforward three points for Canna, centre left inside the 22.
18 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
Good defence from Scotland. Fagerson earns a penalty at the breakdown. Italy penalised for not releasing.
17 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
Penalty against Zander Fagerson this time for collapsing the scrum. Huge roars go up from the Italian pack.
They use the driving maul to good effect once more from the following line out. Into Scotland's 22 now.
15 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
More spillages. There's confusion here and Nigel Owens steps in as his role as assistant to save the day, the superman that he is. Venditti tries to collect the ball with his foot in touch to gain an Italian line out, but drops the ball. Gauzere initially awards the Italians the line out but Owens corrects him - the knock-on being the first offence...I think. Clear as mud. Glad I could clarify that for you.
12' The referee reverses a decision for an Italian throw-in and awards a scrum to Scotland on the visitors' 22m #SCOvITA (3-0)— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) March 18, 2017
12 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
Russell puts in a good kick to put Italy back into their own 22. Better line out from the Italians and Scotland are penalised for collapsing the maul. Canna puts his side into the Scottish half but the line out malfunctions again.
"Now that Scotland have seen that the Italian line out is imploding, they can really play the territory game and exploit these conditions," says Andy Nicol.
Just as he says that Scotland lose their own throw. Scrappy game thus far and you suspect it may continue in that vein.
9 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
Encouragement for Italy who get a driving maul going and make good ground. Gori puts in a kick over the top but it's wasted. Ali Price has plenty of time to run back and call the mark.
Gega is pinged for a wonky through at the resultant line out. Chance for Scotland to reiterate the dominance at scrum time...
6 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
Ryan Wilson is down holding his shoulder. Not another injury nightmare for the Scots surely? They were ravaged last week.
Hogg PENALTY 5 min: Scotland 3 - 0 Italy
Sweet strike from Hogg. Bisects the uprights.
4 min: Scotland 0 - 0 Italy
Dominant scrummage from Scotland, who get the penalty from Pascal Gauzere. Gordon Reid gets a slap on his bonce from his pals.
Italy would have been hoping for at least parity at the scrum but Scotland have the addition of Ross Ford at hooker, a more powerful scrummager than Fraser Brown.
Hogg lines up a kick from around 45 metres out...
2 min: Scotland 0 - 0 Italy
Parisse takes it in and McLean sticks it down Stuart Hogg's bread basket. Scotland with the ball on half way but knock on. Bit of ping pong to begin with. Might be a fair bit of that with all the rain about. Gori spills an up-and-under, it goes forward but Venditti knocks on the loose ball. Scrum to Scotland just inside the Italian half.
0 min: Scotland 0 - 0 Italy
Finn Russell gets us underway...
Scotland playing in white today
The bagpipes fade out and Murrayfield sings A cappella. Sping tingling stuff.
The teams are out
The bagpipes are blowing. Action coming up...
Scotland by a lot, Wales by a little, England by enough. Enjoy, everyone.— Charlie Morgan (@CharlieFelix) March 18, 2017
"Conditions are difficult today"
Italy head coach Conor O'Shea:
We know we have a long road against ahead of us. We've had soft moments and it's those we have to eradicate.
We've played some good rugby but haven't scored from our opportunities.
We'll need to patient, the conditions are difficult today. Scotland play with a lot of width. Stuart Hogg is a massive attacking threat but it will be a difficult game for a full back with the wind out there today.
We played 66% of the game against France in their half. If we do that today we'll be in a good chance of a win.
Scotland win the toss
That's massive news. John Barclay will be ecstatic.
The form book
It was 20-36 in Scotland's favour in last year's fixture at the Stadio Olimpico. Tries from John Hardie, John Barclay and Tommy Seymour securing the win for the Scots.
The Tartan Army have won the past three matches between the sides, including a romping 40-7 victory at Murrayfield in 2015.
In total there have been 26 contests between the two, with Scotland winning 18 of those to Italy's 8.
Predictions for today's game?
We've gone for a comfortable 43-11 victory for the home side today. Anyone disagree? Will the Italians finally spring a surprise on the scoreboard as well as at the breakdown. Send us your thoughts @MilesDilworth.
Prediction time:— Lee Hughes (@LeeHughes2) March 18, 2017
Sco 28 Ita 12
Fra 18 Wal 25
Ire 16 Eng 24#RBS6Nations
Prediction time:— Lee Hughes (@LeeHughes2) March 18, 2017
Sco 28 Ita 12
Fra 18 Wal 25
Ire 16 Eng 24#RBS6Nations
A reminder of today's teams
Murrayfield send off for Cotter
Scotland will be hoping to give their departing coach Vern Cotter the fond farewell he deserves, following three years of gradual progress under the New Zealander.
Cotter is leaving to take charge at top 14 side Montpellier, with Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend taking up the reigns in his place.
Despite their shellacking at the hands of England last week, the general attitude towards Cotter is one of gratitude. Former Scotland scrum-half Andy Nicol spoke in mid week of the newfound confidence the coach had instilled in his squad:
He's certainly leaving Scotland in a better state than he found it. He has brought reality and a belief with the improvements he's made. He was so close to a World Cup semi-final.
The team is playing better, the players have developed in his three years and he's done a great job, in my opinion.
Let's just ignore what happened at Twickenham last Saturday because if Scotland win tomorrow this will have been a great Six Nations.
They'll be desperate to go out and prove to themselves, to the coaches, to the Scottish public, that what we saw at Twickenham was not the real Scotland.
Nicol told the BBC Radio Scotland.
The Italians may not be drawing in the punters with running rugby, but since they employed their 'no ruck' tactic against England at Twickenham there's been a sense of intrigue into what tactical surprises they might spring next.
After O'Shea had promised "variations on a theme" against France, the Azzurri returned to largely conventional tactics, only occasionally refusing to commit to the breakdown. When they did so the French were quick to adapt, picking-and-going through their forwards to create a ruck at the following breakdown.
O'Shea says he wants to create an identity for Italian rugby, so expect some more tactical nuances today. Although the element of surprise behind 'no ruck', or 'the Fox', as the strategy was code-named, has now dissipated. The Scots will have come prepared.
What have the Italians ever done for us?
For those not nerdily interested in the history between these two countries, look away now.
The Italians didn't actually emigrate to Scotland because of ice cream - that just happened to scan better in the intro. Most did so to escape Mussolini or were taken there as prisoners of war, although many stuck around to set up some parlours. Here's a handy little explainer article for those of you keen to find out more.
If someone cuts my wires today I'm done for.
But back to the rugby. This game is frequently a tug-of-war for the wooden spoon but Italy have already secured that ignominious honour for these Championships. The visitors will be desperate for an improved showing to avoid accusations of regression in their first season under Conor O'Shea.
Expect Scotland to come out all guns blazing following their harrowing defeat against England, although they are likely to be a tad more reticent on those early hits.
A tale of two countries
In the nineteenth century they came for the industry. In the twentieth they came for the ice cream parlours. Today, they come for the rugby.
Italians have a long history of migration to Scotland, producing a world-class roster of Scottish-Italian entertainers and artists. Peter Capaldi, Rocco Forte, Paolo Nutini, Eduardo Paolozzi...Ricky Sbragia.
The connection between these two nations runs deep. This afternoon it runs up and down a rugby field in the shape of Giorgio Biagi, the Scottish-born Zebre lock, who starts in place of club-mate Dries van Schalkwyk. There's been a few others before him: Simon Danielli was the last to play for Scotland of Italian heritage and the grandfather of injured Italian fly-half Tommaso Allan earned nine caps for Scotland. Luke McLean was raised in Australia but I'm sure he's got some Gaelic in him somewhere with a name like that.
So, to get you in the mood for this cultural crossover, here's part two of a sports-themed sketch by Armando Ianucci with reference to Lou Macari:
When and where is the game?
The match will be played on Saturday March 18, 2017 at Murrayfield.
What time is kick-off?
What TV channel is it on?
The match is on BBC One with the programme starting at 12.10pm.
What is the team news?
Fraser Brown's rush of blood to the head against England has cost the Scotland hooker his starting slot against Italy.
Head coach Vern Cotter – who is taking charge of Scotland for the final time – has recalled Ross Ford to start at Murrayfield after Brown wrecked his plans for the Auld Enemy with his Twickenham sin-binning.
The Glasgow front-rower was shown a yellow card just 90 seconds into the clash with Eddie Jones's team after dumping wing Elliot Daly to the turf with a dangerous tip tackle.
Brown was spared further punishment on Tuesday when an independent disciplinary panel ruled his challenge did not merit a red card.
But Cotter has now decided to hand Ford his first start of the championship and his 107th international cap.
The Edinburgh forward will need just two more caps after this weekend to equal Chris Paterson's Test record for a Scottish player.
Ford's inclusion is the only change to the starting XV ripped apart by the English last weekend as they went on to claim a record-equalling 61-21 triumph.
Although their title hopes were snuffed out by that humiliating defeat, Scotland can still finish as runners up for the first time since the tournament was expanded to six teams in 2000.
Cotter will be relieved to see the likes of Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson declare themselves fit after suffering head knocks last weekend. Finn Russell, Huw Jones and Richie Gray have also shaken off knocks to take on the struggling Italians, who have lost all four of their games to date.
The only other change to the match-day squad sees Gloucester centre Matt Scott return to the bench to replace Mark Bennett, who lasted just two minutes as a first-half replacement against England before suffering leg and arm injuries.
Cotter said: "The players were frustrated by last weekend but we must take all the learnings from the past years and produce a strong, complete performance to put us in the best possible position to finish in the top half of the table.
"We want to repay the support of another sell-out crowd.
"Matches between Scotland and Italy have always been tough affairs. We have a lot of respect for them and feel they have been improving throughout the competition.
"They showed in this campaign they can be innovative, so preparation has been key to ensuring we put in a good performance. We have to be ready for anything."
Scotland XV: Hogg (Glasgow); Seymour (Glasgow), Jones (Stormers), Dunbar (Glasgow), Visser (Harlequins); Russell (Glasgow), Price (Glasgow); Reid (Glasgow), Ford (Edinburgh), Fagerson (Glasgow), R Gray (Toulouse), J Gray (Glasgow), Barclay (Scarlets, capt), Watson (Edinburgh), Wilson (Glasgow). Replacements: Brown (Glasgow), Dell (Edinburgh), Berghan (Edinburgh), Swinson (Glasgow), Du Preez (Edinburgh), Pyrgos (Glasgow), Weir (Edinburgh), Scott (Gloucester).
Scottish-born lock George Biagi has been named in the Italy side as one of four changes to Conor O'Shea's starting line-up.
The 31-year-old 6ft 6in Zebre player, who came off the bench in defeats to Ireland, England and France, has been selected in the second row to face Scotland in place of club team-mate Dries van Schalkwyk.
Zebre's Maxime Mbanda is also named in the starting pack, in place of Glasgow flanker Simone Favaro, while Ornel Gega takes over from Leonardo Ghiraldini at hooker after recovering from a neck problem.
Tommaso Benvenuti replaces the injured Michele Campagnaro in the centres, and back-rower Federico Ruzza will be hoping for a first senior cap from the bench.
Italy XV: E Padovani (Zebre); A Esposito (Treviso), T Benvenuti (Treviso), L McLean (Treviso), G Venditti (Zebre); C Canna (Zebre), E Gori (Treviso); A Lovotti (Zebre), O Gega (Treviso), L Cittadini (Bayonne), M Fuser (Treviso), G Biagi (Zebre), M Mbanda (Zebre), A Steyn (Treviso), S Parisse (Stade Français). Replacements: L Ghiraldini (Toulouse), S Panico (Calvisano), D Chistolini (Zebre), D van Schalkwyk (Zebre), F Ruzza (Zebre), F Minto (Treviso), M Violi (Zebre), L Sperandio (Treviso).
Three key stats
1. Scotland have won six of their last seven games against Italy (L1), although their one defeat in that run came at Murrayfield (2015).
2. Italy have beaten Scotland eight times overall, more often than they have beaten any other Tier One nation.
3. Scotland have won their last three home games in the Six Nations, the last time they went on a longer such run was a streak of six games between 1989 and 1991.
What are they saying?
"We started the Championship well but things didn't work against England. Now we just need to go back to what was working for us in the earlier games.
"There is always pressure on us to win. We played some of our best rugby in those first three games. But we don't want to go into our shell and not play like the way we know we can.
"We want to go out and express ourselves and pick off these mismatches that we can find."Scotland centre Alex Dunbar
What are the betting odds?
Scotland to win: 1/18 Italy to win: 8/1 Draw: 50/1
What is our prediction?
Following last weekend's humiliation at the hands of the Auld Enemy, Scotland will be hoping – and expected – to chalk up a cricket score against the bottom-placed nation who will pick up the Six Nations wooden spoon for the 12th time in 18 outings in the competition.
Predicted score: Scotland 43 Italy 11