‘Never take a result in Rome for granted’: As charity cycle arrives in Italy, Scotland must find top gear

Chris Paterson, Ian Barr, Roger Baird, Scottish Rugby president Colin Rigby, Rob Wainwright and Rob Boyns before the Dodd1e’5 Gr4nd S7am cycling team headed off to Rome
©The Dodd1e’5 Gr4nd S7am team

Following the triumph over England a fortnight ago, Scotland are feeling in a good place ahead of Saturday’s Six Nations trip to Rome but they certainly know that victory against Italy is not a given. Far from it.

In 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2010, Scotland went to the Stadio Flaminio and lost while in 2012, they suffered a defeat in the current Stadio Olimpico venue. Then in 2015, Italy won in Edinburgh.

Since then, Scotland have managed to win the last 13 matches between the sides - including eight in the Six Nations - but with Italy coming within a whisker of beating France in Lille last time out, it has only sharpened the minds ahead of the latest assignment.

It also means that any talk of the Round Five match in Ireland and possible title hopes are off the table for now.

"I thought the Italian defence in the first half against France was incredible and was probably overlooked a bit in the grand scheme of things,” Scotland centurion Chris Paterson told TRU as he looked back on Italy’s 13-13 draw in the Stade Pierre Mauroy two weeks ago.

"It’s a long time since I have seen a team defend for 25 minutes and not concede a point against a team that includes world-class players like the French have.

"That defence the Italians have got and that way they can now find the edge in attack means they are a tough nut to crack. They will have been frustrated with the way the French game ended [with Paolo Garbisi’s last-gasp penalty hitting the upright] but proud of how they played.

"It means Scotland can never take a result in Rome for granted. Their result against England was really important for Scotland, both in the fact that it was the middle weekend in the tournament and they bounced back from a loss to France and given that they won the Calcutta Cup again.

"It was important to get back to winning ways. There were elements of the performance that were utterly outstanding. Some of the defence was brilliant while their ability to take opportunities when they came was excellent and what supporters want to see.

"However, there will have been frustration around some of the errors. There is a real thirst from the players to improve and they know that the performance will have to improve when they go away from home against a good Italy side."

‘Italy are getting better all the time and we have a big game ahead of us’

It is not just the Scotland squad and thousands of supporters who will be in Rome this coming weekend.

Paterson, the 45-year-old former full-back, was recently at Murrayfield as the Dodd1e’5 Gr4nd S7am team set off on their epic cycle to Italy as part of the ‘All Roads Lead to Rome’ fundraiser in aid of the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and motor neurone disease.

Following on from the success of the Doddie Cup 555 ride in 2023, Rob Wainwright, the former Scotland and British & Irish Lion, has set the biggest cycling challenge yet in memory of the late, great Doddie Weir.

Around 20 cycling teams are currently on the road and are aiming to get to Piazza Navona in Rome by 5pm on Friday.

Wainwright is part of a different team, but Roger Baird, the 63-year-old former winger who earned 27 Scotland caps and was on the Lions tour to New Zealand in 1983, is part of the Dodd1e’5 Gr4nd S7am group.

Looking at the Six Nations, Baird said: “Scotland do have some great players. We can take on the best on our day.

"The French result was unfortunate, but these things happen and Duhan van der Merwe was magnificent against England as the team got back on track.

"We have got a big task to come in Rome though. The Italians are growing in confidence. They obviously drew with France and their Under-20s beat the French. They are getting better all the time and we have a big game ahead of us.

"We are playing great rugby. We have become really good to watch over the last few years and that is the main thing. We have phenomenal options in the backline, our midfield is fantastic, the wingers are great, Ben White is playing really well at scrum-half and people like Blair Kinghorn coming back gives us options.

"Our set piece was really firing versus England and it’ll have to be again this time around to get the job done in Italy."

‘Massimo was a wonderful man, such a kind-hearted man’

By midweek this week, Baird and co had made it to Monaco on their epic cycling journey that began on February 28th.

There they handed the match ball for the Italy-Scotland clash - which had been with them all the way from Edinburgh - over to Marcello Cuttitta.

Since 2022, Scotland and Italy have played for the Cuttitta Cup which is named in memory of Marcello’s brother, Massimo.

He passed away aged 54 in 2021 and was a former Italy captain who earned 70 caps and was also a hugely respected and popular Scotland scrum coach later in his life.

Paterson - who is not part of the charity cycle - knew him well and added: "Massimo was a wonderful man, such a kind-hearted man.

"He had a big, big presence and he was physically big, but he was such a gentle soul and I was still playing when he came in and coached with the Scottish national team.

"He was the type of person who could see if you were struggling when everything else was going on around a big game and he’d always take time out to ask you how you were. It was so sad when he passed away.

"It is great that people are working together to keep his memory alive via the Cuttitta Cup because he meant a lot to the people in Italy and he meant a lot to us in Scotland too.”

- To donate to the Dodd1e’5 Gr4nd S7am team and their efforts, click HERE.

- To donate to the overall All Roads Lead to Rome fundraiser, click HERE

Scotland team to play Italy: Kinghorn, Steyn, Jones, Redpath, Van der Merwe, Russell (co-capt), Horne; Schoeman, Turner, Z Fagerson, Gilchrist, Cummings, Christie, Darge (co-capt), Dempsey.

Replacements: Ashman, Hepburn, Millar-Mills, Skinner, Ritchie, M Fagerson, Price, Rowe.