Six Nations: Gregor Townsend urges Scotland to finish on high note v Italy

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend
Townsend began his career as Scotland head coach with a win over Italy in June last year
Six Nations: Italy v Scotland
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Rome Date: Saturday, 17 March Kick-off: 12:30 GMT
Coverage: BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio 5 live extra, live text commentary on BBC Sport website

A Scotland victory in Italy is important to avoid undoing the progress made in this year's Six Nations, believes head coach Gregor Townsend.

The Scots have lost away to Wales and Ireland, but beat France at home and England for the first time in 10 years.

Townsend says a third victory, a feat Scotland have only achieved twice in Six Nations history (in 2006 and 2017), would make this a good campaign.

"It will make things a lot better," said the former fly-half.

"If we were to lose the game, we would be pretty disappointed given the efforts we've put into the championship.

"To lose two games in a row would be disappointing. To lose your last game is never enjoyable because it's a few weeks or months before you get the squad back. It would be progress [to win three games].

"It would show the players have learned from what's gone on in the championship if we were to get a win because we know this will be a tough game. Italy are also looking at winning.

"They're playing at home, they've shown signs in parts of the games that they can be very good."

Italy are seeking to avoid a third straight whitewash, and 17th consecutive defeat in the championship, their last win coming in February 2015 against Scotland at Murrayfield. Of their 12 wins in Six Nations history, seven have been against Scotland.

World Cup planning in Townsend's thoughts

Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg in action against Italy in 2016
Scotland were 36-20 winners on their last Six Nations visit to Rome in 2016

Scotland have made five changes to the team that lost in Dublin last time out. Prop WP Nel, hooker Fraser Brown and lock Tim Swinson come into the pack, with Nick Grigg and Tommy Seymour coming in at centre and wing respectively.

Given there was only a combined total of one change in the past three matches, it represents a big turnover in players and Townsend admits he has next year's World Cup in Japan on his mind.

"It's in the back of our minds," said Townsend, who is leading Scotland in his first Six Nations campaign as coach.

"We've obviously brought two players back in [to the squad] that have not featured for us this season in Zander Fagerson and Richie Gray. Those are two players that have been key for Scotland in the recent past and will be key for Scotland in the future.

"We do have an eye on involving these players if we believe they are back in form and full fitness to look ahead to the summer, to look ahead to next season and obviously to the World Cup less than 18 months away."

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