Mallett wary of the threat Scotland bring

Coach Nick Mallett is preparing his Italy side for a tough battle when it takes on Scotland Saturday in the Six Nations despite the visitors’ winless record.

Both teams lost their opening two matches. Italy lost 29-11 to Ireland and 17-12 to England, while Scotland lost 18-9 to France and then 31-24 to Wales in a match Andy Robinson’s side led 24-14 with five minutes remaining.

Mallett’s only success in the Six Nations came against Scotland in Rome in 2008, when a last-minute drop goal from Andrea Marcato gave Italy a 23-20 win.

Scotland is 10th in the International Rugby Board rankings, one place above Italy.

“Italy always plays teams stronger than us, but the players want to win every game,” Mallett said. “It is true Scotland is above us in the IRB rankings, but its match against Wales was extraordinary.

It was a match that the Scots lost, rather than the Welsh won.” Scotland’s club sides, Edinburgh and Glasgow, have improved markedly in recent years, something that has allowed the national team to build on their success.

“The two Scottish teams are near the top of the Celtic League and have had good results in the European Cup,” Mallett said.

“There aren’t many players in Scotland but the organization of its rugby is good and it has allowed the professional teams to improve.

We saw the impact of that when the national team beat Australia (in November).”

Scotland captain Chris Cusiter and fullback Hugo Southwell will both win their 50th cap at the Stadio Flaminio. Southwell is one of three changes to the Scottish lineup, along with wing Simon Danielli and center Max Evans.

Cusiter is hopeful that his side can build on its showing in Cardiff and win in the Italian capital for the first time since a 13-10 victory in 2006.

“We caused Wales a lot of problems with our attack,” Cusiter said.

“We had a few attacks that we didn’t finish off that could easily have got us some more tries. It is the best we’ve attacked for a while now and we need to continue in that vein and try and cause Italy some problems.”

Italy has had the majority of its success in the Six Nations against Scotland, winning six of their 10 meetings since marking its entry in the competition in 2000 with a 34-20 victory.

“They’re an improved team,” Cusiter said. “They’re missing Sergio Parisse, but yet the team has been performing really well.

They were disappointed with the first half in Dublin, but apart from that they’ve been really competitive and England only got away from them with a drop goal from (Jonny) Wilkinson.

“They’re a tough team to break down and playing at home they are a very proud team,” he said. “It is a huge challenge to go over.

It’s as big as any we face in the Six Nations.”

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