Italy head coach Pierre Berbizier believes his side are on an upward curve despite their bottom-of-the-table position going into their final game of this year's RBS 6 Nations Championship.
The Azzurri round off their campaign with a home match against Scotland knowing they need a win to have any chance of avoiding another wooden spoon.
They have only picked up one point so far - in an 18-18 draw with Wales last weekend - but their performances have been encouraging and indicate the gap between themselves and their five opponents is closing.
There were signs of improvement during 2005 - they beat Argentina away in June and put in a committed performance against Australia during the summer - and Berbizier is happy to see his players continue that form into 2006.
''Italy's target this tournament was to continue on the road of improvement, which started with the tours to Argentina and Australia,'' said the Frenchman.
''There we managed to play simple rugby, but were capable of challenging whichever opponents we came across.
''So now we have found a game that reflects the identity of this squad and this is important.
''But the road is still long.''
Italy are sure to provide the Scots with a tough test at the Stadio Flaminio. Frank Hadden's side may have been the surprise package this year with home victories over traditional heavyweights France and England, but they have lost two from two on the road, to Wales then Ireland.
The Azzurri troubled England in their only other home match in this season's tournament - the world champions eventually ran out 31-16 winners - but Berbizier is taking nothing for granted this weekend.
''They have beaten France and England, which is absolutely great for them, and they have four points in the standings and a possibility, albeit remote, of winning this tournament,'' said the Italy chief.
''I'm sure Scotland will come out fighting because they have a target and they are a team capable of expressing themselves.
''They have changed their half-backs, with (Gordon) Ross and (Chris) Cusiter starting. They are two good players, Cusiter in particularly, and I'm sure they will want to play to their best having been given this chance.''