Scotland being realistic

Scotland insist they are reading nothing into Italy’s abject performances in the World Cup so far ahead of Saturday’s qualification decider between the two teams in St Etienne.

The Azzurri have been one of the tournament’s major let-downs, but there is a feeling they are holding something back for this weekend’s make-or-break Pool C showdown.

Comfortably swept aside – like the Scots at the weekend – by New Zealand, the Italians then struggled past both Romania and Portugal in unconvincing displays that would have had Scotland fans rubbing their hands with glee.

But they are still in with a chance of reaching the knockout stages and a probable quarter-final date with Argentina.

And the Scotland squad are adamant they are not underestimating the Azzurri.

“I think a lot of their focus has been on this game for a long, long time,” said Backs coach Alan Tait.

“They knew the draw a long time ago. They might have just been waiting for this and we know how difficult it will be.”

Number eight Simon Taylor knows that what has gone before will have little bearing on this game.

“We have watched their games and I don’t think we can read too much into them. Every game is different,” said Taylor.

“You just have to look at what they have done in the last few years and the quality of their squad.

“It might just give them an extra edge if they haven’t been playing very well. We have to remain focused.”

Scotland know to their dismay how dangerous Italy can be on their day.

In this year’s Six Nations Championship, Pierre Berbizier’s side won 37-17 at Murrayfield to claim their first away victory in the tournament.

That game saw Frank Hadden’s men gift their opponents three tries in the opening six minutes, following a charged-down kick from Phil Godman by Mauro Bergamasco and interception tries by Andrea Scanavacca and Kaine Robertson.

The Scots could not recover from the 21-0 deficit that day, but Tait dismissed it as a freak match.

“It was just one of those games,” added the former Lions winger.

“We gave them too big a start and we can’t afford to do that. We have talked about how we need to start the game fully focused.

“They caught us with a few clever things that caught us out that day, but hopefully we will be prepared this time.”

Hadden is confident he will have a fully-fit squad of 30 players to choose from this weekend.

Full-back Hugo Southwell (calf), lock Scott MacLeod (ankle) and utility back Chris Paterson (blurred vision) are all suffering various problems, but they are expected to be available for selection.

Hadden names his team for Saturday’s game on Thursday afternoon.

The clash was always likely to be the group’s do-or-die encounter, and so it has proved.

“We all know it’s going to be a hard game,” said Taylor, who should return to the back row after being rested for the 40-0 defeat to New Zealand on Sunday.

“I don’t see it as revenge (for the Six Nations defeat) but players use different things as motivation before a game.

“There is just a massive reward at stake – you can get to the quarter-finals if you win – and we are going to go into it giving our everything.”

Tait admitted he could tell from the atmosphere in the squad that a seismic match was approaching.

“It was the same in 2003, when we needed to beat Fiji,” he said.

“The tension builds and builds and you can feel it in the camp already.

“I think that can be a positive, as long as you don’t go overboard and do things you shouldn’t do. You should always be nervous going into games like this.

“We know how important it is. We just have to get everything right on the night.”

 

365 Digital

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