Scotland forward Johnnie Beattie has rejected the flak aimed at head coach Scott Johnson – insisting the sole responsibility for the Dark Blues’ dismal start to the RBS 6 Nations rests with the players.
The Montpellier number eight is a surprise starter for tomorrow’ clash with Italy in Rome after David Denton was chosen to kick off the humiliating losses to Ireland and England which saw the Scots ship almost 50 points while scoring just three.
The painful 20-0 defeat to the Auld Enemy has produced a furious backlash, with angry former players queuing up to criticise Australian Johnson. Lions prop Peter Wright branded the Sydney native a “joker” while 23-cap scrum-half Andy Nicol questioned whether Johnson – who will step up to become the Scottish Rugby Union’s director of rugby in the summer when Vern Cotter arrives to take over coaching responsibilities – and his assistants were good enough to lead Scotland.
But asked who was to blame for the first two results, Beattie declared: “It’s ourselves, the players.
Meanwhile Italy head coach Jacques Brunel admits he will not underestimate Scotland.
“Last year we conceded 34 points at Murrayfield, that’s something we have to take in,” said Brunel.
“Recent results haven’t been going Scotland’s way, but they’re one of the teams we seem to have most difficulty with. They have character and always play with determination. They will be tough opponents.”
The Azzurri will be buoyed by the feats of Martin Castrogiovanni and Sergio Parisse as both stalwarts win their 104th caps, eclipsing the Italian record held by Andrea Lo Cicero.
Two of Brunel ’s switches come in the back row, where Roberto Barbieri and Alessandro Zanni replace Mauro Bergamasco and Francesco Minto.
The other alteration to the team beaten heavily by France in Paris a fortnight ago comes on the wing, where Angelo Esposito returns in place of Tommaso Iannone.
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