Italy & Scotland dismiss wooden spoon jibes

Italy and Scotland go head to head in a Six Nations international at Rome’s Stadio Flaminio on Saturday fiercely determined to prove that this is no battle to avoid the wooden spoon.

Not since 2003 has another team finished bottom of the pile and this fixture has often decided which of the two sides avoided that unwanted tag.

With both sides having already lost their opening two games of the tournament, many observers believe this game will once again decide who props up the table at the end.

But Scotland centre Graeme Morrison insists that’s simply not the case.

“The teams are progressing and have progressed massively over the last couple of years,” he said.

“You look at the way Italy gave Ireland a really tough run (losing 29-11) and gave England a really tougher run (losing 17-12). So it’s a lot closer than people might think, this tournament.” But Morrison conceded that may not be Italy’s mentality on Saturday.

“We know the Italians will be viewing this as their game they can win,” added the 27-year-old.

“Playing in front of their home crowd in sunny Rome will be absolutely what they’re wanting. We’re looking forward to doing justice to the way we can play.” Veteran Italy lock and former captain Marco Bortolami denied that Italy are treating Scotland any differently to any other opponents, though, and suggested that the Italians have the utmost respect for their visitors.

“This year I think Scotland are playing the best rugby of this Six Nations championship, given what we saw in the first two matches,” he said.

“They put in a great performance against France (when they lost 18-9), and we know how good France are, and they deserved to beat Wales (after losing 31-24) so I think they’re better than last year and better than two years ago.

“I don’t think we’re the favourites, but against England we showed we’re improving and with this match being in Rome I think we’re capable of winning it.” Italy come into this match on the back of 15 defeats from 16 matches since they beat Scotland 23-20 here in the last match of the 2008 Six Nations courtesy of a last-minute Andrea Marcato drop goal; a result that left them two points shy of overhauling their visitors and avoiding the wooden spoon.

And yet Bortolami insists his team have not been adversely affected by that string of defeats.

“Almost every time we play we’re the underdogs because we’re playing better teams than us with much more of a tradition in the Six Nations, so these are not conditions that take away your confidence,” he said.

“We come into every game knowing that we have a chance of winning but knowing that there’s a gap we have to close, but we’re ready to make the most of our chances.

“It’s a situation a bit different to the other teams because it’s clear that when we’re playing against England, France, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, we’re never favourites but if in the past we’ve managed to beat them it’s because we managed to take our chances and played well.”

One area they usually perform in is the pack but Scotland prop Allan Jacobsen revealed the Scots have been focusing on that area in training.

“It’s a massive part of their game, it always has been a massive part of their game, the scrum,” he said.

“They’ve got massive pride in it. They see it as a bit of an insult if they don’t do so well, they don’t feel good about themselves. That’s something we’re really focused on.

“From the games I’ve played against them over the years, the games we’ve won are the games we’ve done well up front in, particularly in the scrum.

“And vice-versa. The games where we’ve struggled at the breakdown and in the scrum and the mauls, those are the games where they’ve come out on top.”

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