Hall ready for Italian power

Dougie Hall has vowed that he and his Scotland team-mates will rise to the challenge presented by Italy’s formidable forwards this Saturday.

The might of Andrea Lo Cicero, Carlo Festuccia and Martin Castrogiovanni will line up against Scotland when the two teams meet at Murrayfield in the third round of Six Nations Championship fixtures.

“The scrum is one of their major attacking options,” said 26-year-old hooker Hall.

“They really are good at disrupting opposition ball, and they are very secure on their own ball – so we have to make sure we are equal to that challenge, and I’m sure we will be.”

Scotland struggled in the scrum in their first match of this season’s Six Nations campaign against England, but totally dominated up front in the Murrayfield match versus Wales a week later.

Hall is not reading too much into either of those performances, insisting each opposing side presents a unique challenge.

“I’m still waiting to be in an easy scrum in international rugby, but I don’t think it will ever happen because there isn’t one,” he said.

“Every scrum you go into is excellent.

“When it comes to scrummaging you find that different packs will ask you different questions, and sometimes you have the answers and sometimes you can even ask a few questions back.

“Italy will pose a whole different set of questions to those that Wales asked last week, and also different questions to those England asked the week before that.

“We’ve got to make sure that we have the answers, because if we don’t we will have lost a valuable starting point for what the team want to do.

“You’re never quite sure exactly what they are going to do until you are packed down against them – but whatever it is they throw at us we have to deal with it.

“And it is not going to be good enough just to get the ball, we have to supply good ball for our backs to play with.

“We’ve got quite a young front row, especially in terms of caps – but we are improving all the time.

“When we played Wales down there last season we were shoved all over the park; this year we totally dominated them.

“That shows that we are making progress, and this match gives us an opportunity to gauge just how much progress we have made.”

The Scots have also taken significant steps forward with their line-out.

Last year they struggled to hold their own in the crucial area, and Hall’s throwing, in particular, was singled out for criticism.

However, according to official statistics, Scotland have lost only one line-out in their two matches so far this season – indicating that Hall and his team-mates have made great strides in the right direction.

“It has been much improved and that is down to the hard work we have put in,” said Hall.

“Last season we had a lot of faith that our line-out would come good eventually, unfortunately the Six Nations ended too soon for us.

“There is no doubt that a fresh start helps. Last year we got to the point that there was so much pressure on that every time we went out there we felt incredibly embattled – but we have done a lot of work as a team and as individuals, and I think we are now seeing that pay off.

“Having said that, it is an ever-changing process, because Italy have now had two chances to look at our line-out – so we have to make sure we are constantly adapting so that we can stay one step ahead.

“It wasn’t the ideal situation, to know that I was under so much scrutiny. It got to the point where any line-out which went badly was my fault – but I’m a big boy and I could take it.

“At least I knew that the coaches understood how hard we were all working, and how close we all were to getting it right.

“You just have to block out what the press and the public are saying. Although I admit it is a lot nicer not to have them on your back. Mind

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