Scotland v Italy, Murrayfield, August 20
Vernon out to run Italy ragged
ESPNscrum Staff
August 19, 2011

Scotland No.8 Richie Vernon is determined to impress when his side tackle Italy in a Rugby World Cup warm-up clash at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The 24-year-old has been handed a rare start and with it a chance to impress coach Andy Robinson who will name his 30-man squad for the World Cup on Monday. The Scots are blessed with strength-in-depth when it comes to the back-row and as a result Vernon, who made the move from Glasgow to Sale Sharks this summer, is aware he must make the most of his opportunity.

"I'll be looking to get my hands on the ball, try and be as dangerous as I can, hopefully break some tackles and get through a few gaps," he told PA Sport. "If I can do that hopefully it will put me forward for a place on that plane."

Johnnie Beattie, Ross Rennie and Alasdair Strokosch began the 10-6 win over Ireland a fortnight ago and Vernon was impressed. "I thought the back row played really well," he said. "That made it a big challenge this week for me to live up to those heights. Hopefully we can play even better this weekend."

Vernon will be joined by Kelly Brown and John Barclay in the back-row against Italy. Brown and Barclay, barring injury, are near certainties to be included in the World Cup squad, while Rennie proved a capable deputy for Barclay at openside flanker.

Vernon, Beattie and Strokosch could be playing for two places, with Robinson also having previously deployed lock Nathan Hines in the back row and youngsters David Denton and Rob Harley likely out of the reckoning.

Like Vernon, Nick De Luca hopes to grasp his opportunity tomorrow. The Edinburgh centre is out to prove his match-winning intervention in setting up Joe Ansbro's try against Ireland was not a one off.

The 27-year-old said: "I was very happy with my contribution. But I don't want to be a super sub or anything. I want to put in a good performance and try and get on that plane and then a starting jersey. I'm desperate to get out there and play in a World Cup. I'm confident in my own ability and I need to make sure everybody else notices."

De Luca has now taken Ansbro's place in the first XV, lining up outside Glasgow Warriors centre Graeme Morrison, who is the only player retained from the starting line-up which began the Ireland game. "It's good to get a run-out," added De Luca. "I'm glad to get a go. I enjoy playing outside Graeme - we've been undefeated as a partnership in only three games.

"I've got this opportunity this weekend. It's a great chance to put your case forward. I'm confident in my own ability and I need to make sure everybody else notices."

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