The 2019 Six Nations returns with the reverse fixtures of this year’s Super Saturday and that means an immediate chance at revenge for Conor O’Shea’s Italy when they travel to Scotland.
The Azzurri were desperately close to a maiden Championship win for O’Shea when they hosted the Scots in March, leading heading into the final two minutes at the Stadio Olimpico.
However, as has been the case regularly in matches between these two, everything changed at the death, with Scotland earning a last-gasp penalty.
Greig Laidlaw held his nerve to slot it and Scotland eked out a 29-27 success in one of the games of the Championship.
The return fixture will be at BT Murrayfield, a venue where the Scots have been increasingly hard to beat in recent seasons, both in the Six Nations and during the Autumn Internationals.
However Italy will also be able to look back fondly on a pair of successes in the Scottish capital ahead of a crucial opening encounter – the sides’ 20th meeting in the Championship.
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RENEWING THE MOST DRAMATIC RIVALRY IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP
When Scotland host Italy at BT Murrayfield on February 2 (kick-off 2.15pm local time), it will be the chance for another potential tight finish.
Over the last 18 years, Scotland and Italy have produced a remarkable five matches where the eventual winners have taken the lead in the final two minutes of the match.
This year it was Greig Laidlaw who made the difference three years on from an Italian penalty try that earned victory at BT Murrayfield.
There have also been a pair of famous drop goals, Duncan Weir in 2014 and Andrea Marcato in 2008, both in Rome, that also decided games, as did Chris Paterson’s 79th-minute penalty in 2006.
It’s not only when games are close that fixtures between these two are dramatic.
Italy’s biggest-ever win in the Six Nations came against the Scots in 2007 – their first-ever away from home as they ran in three tries in the first six minutes on the way to a 37-17 victory.
And who could forget Italy’s Championship debut when Diego Dominguez pulled the strings in a 34-20 win in Rome.
If this game comes even close to the drama we have had in this encounter in previous years, we should be in for a thriller.
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THE SCOTTISH CAPITAL
Edinburgh is famous for many things – the Festival, the Fringe and of course Hogmanay.
But a Six Nations weekend is one of the jewels in the crown of a city steeped in history and full of sights, sounds and smells to take in.
Edinburgh Castle is the stand-out attraction while Arthur’s Seat is the best way to see the city as a whole and understand where the old meets the new.
Give yourself a full weekend and you might have enough time for a day trip out to Loch Ness to see if you can spot the mythical monster.
Edinburgh Zoo is only a short bus ride from the city centre and also a must-see, with over 1,000 animals and the UK’s only giant pandas.
Or you can keep it low key and taking in the fantastic shopping on offer on Princes Street.
BT Murrayfield is a little outside the city centre but very practical to reach on a matchday, either by tram or on foot.
For those based up towards the Old Town and Cowgate, always a fun area, it’s a short walk to a tram station and then a short journey to the ground.
Just as fun is heading to Haymarket station and walking down to the ground from there.
It takes about 20 minutes and between the bagpipes and all the rugby fans, you’re sure to be very much in the spirit for the game by the time you arrive.
As for the stadium itself, the atmosphere in the 67,000-seater is electric, and with the national team on the up under Gregor Townsend, the excitement will be palpable around the ground.