For all the progress both have overseen however, and for all the accolades heaped on the pair - one a pillar of strength at the scrum, the other among the finest No.8s of his generation - Italy find themselves in a similar situation.
There have been plenty of positives from their opening two matches, not least the form of 20-year-old centre Michael Campagnaro.
Tommaso Allan and Angelo Esposito are both also 20 and are, along with Campagnaro, giving rise to optimism that Italy are slowly but surely amassing a backline that can equal their traditional forward strength.
But both their opening matches have ended in defeat and as they welcome a Scotland side who arrive on the back of hidings at the hands of Ireland and England, it again appears to be a battle to avoid bottom spot in the table.
Italy, who are without Mauro Bergamasco, will start the match as favourites with the bookmakers, but Brunel, who has also handed Esposito his second cap and recalled flankers Robert Barbieri and Alessandro Zanni, does not expect an easy ride against Scotland.
"Last year we conceded 34 points at Murrayfield, that's something we have to take into consideration," said Brunel.
"Recent results haven't been going Scotland's way, but they're one of the teams we seem to have most difficulty with. They have character and always play with determination. They will be tough opponents."
If Italy are to secure their first win of the competition, they will need Allan, who represented Scotland at Under-20 level 12 months ago, to bring his A game - Brunel, however has no doubts he will.
"I understood from the start of his time with us that he feels truly Italian, even though he has come through the Scottish ranks. For him there's no doubt," he added.
Scotland, meanwhile, have not won in Rome since 2006 but after listless displays so far, they are determined to prove that the progress made en route to last year's third-place finish has not been lost.
Back comes second row Richie Gray to bolster a lineout which flopped against England, while Scott Lawson replaces Ross Ford at hooker and Johnnie Beattie gets the nod ahead of Dave Denton at No.8.
Gray was on the bench against Ireland and out of the 23-man squad entirely against England, but he's determined to make his presence felt against the Azzurri.
"It's been frustrating but I'm delighted to be back," he said.
"It was disappointing to be left out because everyone wants to be involved. The first couple of days, you bump your gums and say, 'Nah, he's not right'.
"But Johnno [Scott Johnson] was right. He wanted me to work defensively, work on the breakdown. You have to take those points on board and all you can do then is work on it.
"Hopefully I've done that and now I've got an opportunity to get back in the team."