Greig Laidlaw insists the morale in the Scotland camp is “frustrated” but “not low” as they prepare to travel to Rome hoping to finally break the harrowing run of nine straight Six Nations defeats.
The captain believes if Scotland can get over the barrier and register a win on Saturday they can look to finish the tournament on a high.
After losses to England and Wales in the first two matches of this year’s competition, the clash against the equally winless Italians is looming as an absolutely pivotal encounter, with a lurch towards an unthinkable second straight Wooden Spoon whitewash a distinct possibility if things go wrong.
“It is not difficult to convince the team,” said Laidlaw yesterday. “They understand we are not playing badly. We are playing against good teams. “Wales away is a tough place to go and win while England took their couple of opportunities. If we took ours we could have tipped the balance and won the game.
“Morale is frustrated. Certainly not low.”
Laidlaw called a team meeting after an extended training session yesterday morning and is leaving no stone unturned in the search for that elusive victory.
“It was an extremely tough session. Afterwards we tidied up a few things at the end of training and then we went to our meeting,” explained the Gloucester scrum-half.
“We have a rest day tomorrow and I felt it was important to sign off a few things so when we come back on Thursday and fly to Rome we can hit the ground running.
“At the players meeting we discussed what we want to do at different periods of the game. I can’t give away too much but we wanted to meet and discuss things.”
Laidlaw is well aware that Italy will be fired up for the visit of opponents against whom they their best record, but feels that just getting that win could act as a catalyst.
“They’ll be stuffy, trying to target this game, clearly,” he said. “Strong scrum, strong lineout, that’s pretty much what we expect and they’ll look to play off the back of that as well.
“There’s a lot riding on the game and we understand that. The good thing is there’s three games to go and if we can get a positive performance that brings us that win, we then return home to Murrayfield after a week off against France.
“The tournament’s tight, there’s nobody really that far ahead I don’t think.”