Italian rugby coach Jacques Brunel today sought to keep his team firmly grounded as they prepare to try to equal their best ever RBS Six Nations Championship return of two wins when they face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The Azzurri set the tournament alight by defeating France yesterday and a trip to Edinburgh holds the prospect of doubling their tally.
But Brunel, aware that Italy have only ever won once in Scotland in the Championship, expects a home backlash, saying: “Everyone says Scotland are not a great team at the moment but they are a hard team to play against, especially at Murrayfield. Last year they gave a lot of teams problems.”
Scotland have injury concerns mainly centring on Al Strokosch (eye socket). The Perpignan flanker will see a specialist tomorrow to determine whether he can play any further part in the tournament. However, Strokosch is not the only worry.
Hooker Dougie Hall (knee), flanker David Denton (knee) and No 8 Johnnie Beattie (ankle) took weekend knocks and coach Scott Johnson has reinforced his squad.
Called up are not only travelling reserves for Saturday’s 38-18 Twickenham defeat by England – Pat McArthur, Peter Murchie, Rob Harley and Grant Gilchrist – but a string of personnel from the A team which defeated England Saxons.
These include Edinburgh hooker Steve Lawrie, who has made a stunning return from a year-long injury absence.
Just six professional matches into a comeback, Lawrie was singled out for special praise by commentators for his part in the A team triumph.
Others called up are props Jon Welsh and Alasdair Dickinson, back row Richie Vernon, scrum half Sean Kennedy, stand-off Tom Heathcote, winger Nikki Walker and centre Duncan Taylor.