Scotland have named the same team that defeated Romania last week for their key Rugby World Cup Pool C tie against Italy in St Etienne on Saturday.
Head coach Frank Hadden said the selection had taken “longer than might have been expectedâ€ but his desire to ensure the freshest possible XV to take on the Italians was a priority.
He said: “We are happy with where we are at present. We expect the side selected for Saturday to step up a gear and make the bold statement that we want to make at this World Cup.
“We give Italy the utmost respect. Not only did they win their last match against us but we have always found Italy a difficult side to play against at all levels in Scottish rugby. Many players in their starting XV know what it is to play in the latter stages of three of Europe’s big competitions -the Heineken Cup, the French Championship and the English Premiership.
“Saturday’s match is a knock-out game and is Scottish Rugby’s biggest game since we played Fiji in the last World Cup.
“We are aware of the huge support from back home and from Scots around the world from the good luck messages coming to our camp and everyone will be striving to give you a performance of which you can be proud on Saturday.”
Chris Paterson, who wins his landmark 80th cap on Saturday, said: “It was strange last week when we were at Dalmahoy where we stayed when I got my first World Cup, and eight years later I was doing the same thing preparing for a game in the same hotel. On the field nothing changes. I just give everything I’ve got every time, and I still feel I’ve got more to give and have not yet played as well as I want in this World Cup.
“Saturday’s game is make or break. Italy have a good record against us and are above us in the rankings. What makes it better now is that everyone understands how good a team they are. They’re a quality side with massive playing numbers. However, it’s a game we know we can win and must win, and we must put all the hard work we’ve done over the summer together on Saturday night.”
His team-mate Rory Lamont, who has overcome fierce competition from Hugo Southwell to win the full-back berth, said: “I’m very pleased with my performances so far. I had to wait a long time to get some game time for Scotland. Whether or not the tries come as quickly as they have for me so far (four in two games), I’m just happy to do a job for the team.
“I’ve cut down the errors in the game. My running has always been a strong point and I’ve always been comfortable under the high ball. I try to counter attack and am more experienced to do the right thing at the right time. I’ve just improved as a player even my tackle breaking, and running. I’ve been pleased with all this coming into this World cup and the summer’s training work has paid off on the pitch.
“It’s quite difficult as it is obviously the biggest game of my career but I don’t want to get too nervous about it as you want to play as well as you can. If you put too much pressure on yourself, you can make a mistake.
“This is the game I’ve dreamt of as a young lad, the all important game to get you through to the final stages of the World Cup. At the same time you can’t put too much pressure on yourself but I know how significant it is and want to do myself and Scottish fans proud on Saturday.”
Allister Hogg, man of the match with a try hat-trick in Scotland’s 42-0 win against Romania, added: “I’m excited about Saturday’s match. It’s the biggest game I’ve been involved in. It’s a strange situation to be in, that if we don’t win we go home, and we all feel we don’t want to go home yet. We want to get to the quarter-finals, and then there is no reason why we can’t go further.
“We’ve been building up our performances in all the pool games so far. The effort the boys made against New Zealand, they kept fighting to the end and the attitude and commitment shown in defence, is something we’ll take forward into this game and hopefully we’ll get a result.
“Italy will be tough. They’ve been targeting this match for two years and for some, it’s the biggest game of their careers too so we have to match them and be patient as they’ll come out of the blocks flying. It won’t be a high scoring game but we’ll need to be patient and take our opportunities clinically when they happen.”
Jason White, Scotland’s captain, overtakes prop Tom Smith to become Scotland’s fourth most capped forward when he wins his 62nd cap on Saturday.
Scotland team to play Italy in Rugby World Cup Pool C on Saturday 29 September at Stade Geoffroy Guichard, St Etienne (kick-off 9pm local time)
15 Rory Lamont (Sale Sharks)
14 Sean Lamont (Northampton Saints)
13 Simon Webster (Edinburgh)
12 Rob Dewey (Ulster)
11 Chris Paterson (Gloucester)
10 Dan Parks (Glasgow Warriors)
9 Mike Blair (Edinburgh)*
1 Gavin Kerr (Edinburgh)
2 Ross Ford (Glasgow Warriors)*
3 Euan Murray (Northampton Saints)*
4 Nathan Hines (Perpignan)
5 Jim Hamilton (Leicester Tigers)
6 Jason White (Sale Sharks) CAPTAIN
8 Simon Taylor (Stade Francais)*
7 Allister Hogg (Edinburgh)*
16 Scott Lawson (Sale Sharks)*
17 Craig Smith (Edinburgh)
18 Scott MacLeod (Llanelli Scarlets)
19 Kelly Brown (Glasgow Warriors)*
20 Chris Cusiter (Perpignan)
21 Andrew Henderson (Glasgow Warriors)
22 Hugo Southwell (Edinburgh)
* = Member of Scottish Institute of Sport
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa). Touch-judges: Wayne Barnes (England) and Hugh Watkins (Wales). TMO: Dave Pearson (England)