Scotland full-back Hugo Southwell expects Italy to use every trick in the book in their bid for back-to-back RBS 6 Nations wins at Murrayfield.
The Azzurri’s no-holds-barred approach infuriated Ireland in Sunday’s 38-9 defeat in Rome and Southwell predicts they could even crank it up a notch in Edinburgh a week on Saturday.
Italy have won their last two RBS 6 Nations games against Scotland, including a historic first tournament away victory in 2007.
Southwell believes their recent successes in the fixture has led to them singling it out as their best hope of an upset.
And the Edinburgh star would not be surprised to see Nick Mallett’s men try anything to make it a hat-trick of wins against Scotland.
He said: “They always target this game, having had success for the last two or three years. They always target this game as a win for them.
“If we train as we know we can in the week and a half leading up to the game, we know we’ll be ready for that.”
As fired up as Southwell expects Italy to be, he insists Scotland are even more determined to avoid yet another humiliating defeat.
He said: “There’s a massive incentive. Over the last two years, we haven’t really performed to the level we know we can.
“Last year in Rome, we made a mistake to lose the game. We had an interception and the time before that, there was an interception again.
“We know how they’re going to come at us: they’re going to come at us with their rush defence; they’re going to try to spoil our game; they’re going to try to force errors from us.
“We need to be pretty streetwise to that.”
He added: “As we saw in their game against Ireland, if we can contain them, they struggle to get forward and score points unless they feed from your errors.
“We need to try to keep hold of the ball for long periods and if we can do that, like Ireland did in the latter stages of the game on Sunday, it could be a successful day for us.”
The last two years have seen the destiny of the Wooden Spoon come down to this particular fixture, with Scotland lumbered with the dubious honour in 2007 before only narrowly avoiding it again last year.
With both teams having begun this year’s RBS 6 Nations with two defeats, everything points to the usual suspects being involved again in the battle to avoid rugby’s most notorious booby prize.
But Southwell does not see it that way.
“Not at all,” he said. “Obviously, we’re frustrated and disappointed to be in the position we are, having lost two from two.
“We never thought we’d be in this position with two games down.
“But we still don’t see it as a Wooden Spoon decider, we see it as the start of a recovery and winning the last three games.”
He added: “If we can put in a massive performance and front up physically, like we did against France on Saturday, I think that’ll be the start of the recovery.
“It’s not far away from clicking and if we can do it against Italy, hopefully there will be better things to come in the last two games against Ireland and England.”