Coach Frank Hadden was quick to emphasise that the changes were not to do with poor form in last weekend's loss to Ireland in Dublin but rather a matter of taking the opportunity in a less important match to give Cusiter and Ross a chance.
"Speaking with my World Cup hat on, we have to get the most of all our players. This is an opportunity to do this," said Hadden, whose side have only a very remote chance of winning the championship.
"It's not a reflection on the other guys. They understand that we have to develop players in the squad.
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"The other point is that given where we are at in this season's championship I feel it appropriate to look at the squad and both Chris and Gordon deserve the opportunity to start.
"I don't necessarily see them as a pair. It's just the way it's worked out this season. I would expect them to change the shape of what we might do. We've still got to make our mark with an attacking game. Our attack has been under wraps because we haven't had ball."
The other change is at hooker where Scott Lawson starts ahead of Doug Hall.
The change was likely but in the event Hadden's hand was forced after Hall injured a shoulder in Dublin. Hall has been named among the replacements but if he is not fully fit then the experienced Steve Scott will be on the bench.
Lawson is regarded as more accurate at the throw-in although if the line-out is to improve the onus will fall mainly on Scotland's line-out leader, lock Scott Murray, who wins his 75th cap on Saturday.
"Scott is aware that he was not at his best last week. I'm expecting a big game from him in Rome," said Hadden.
"The line-out is an area we're working on this week. I'm confident that all the guys involved are giving the task the commitment that will ensure the progress of what is still a young side."
Scotland go to Rome knowing the Italians have been ahead at halftime in each of their matches so far even if they have only ended up with one point from last weekend's draw in Wales.
"Italy will ask different questions of us. I'm certainly impressed with their play this season. But we're looking forward to what hopefully will be dry conditions in Rome," said Hadden.
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