Sergio Parisse has underlined the need for Italy to produce an 80-minute performance when they begin their RBS Six Nations campaign in Rome.
The Azzurri have won just 12 of their 85 Six Nations Tests and been tournament wooden spoonists 11 times, with most pundits again predicting a sixth-placed finish this time around.
Opening opponents Wales have also inflicted their fair share of misery in recent seasons, winning the last two Six Nations encounters between the countries by topping 60 points each time.
Italy skipper Parisse and his opposite number at the Stadio Olimpico this weekend, lock Alun Wyn Jones, are the only starting XV survivors from the Azzurri’s last victory over Wales ten years ago.
But Parisse and company enter the tournament revitalised by a new coaching team of Conor O’Shea, Mike Catt and Brendan Venter, with added confidence generated by an historic victory over South Africa less than three months ago.
“Alun Wyn Jones was there when we beat Wales in 2007, but now the two teams are very different,” Parisse said. “There is no link between the two games. I am happy to remember that day because of the great result, but it is now in the past.
“This year we’ve prepared for Wales in a different way. It’s different to the way we prepared against South Africa and Tonga in November. We have trained very hard physically this week, and worked as hard as we can for this game. We deserve to be in this tournament because of the results we’ve had in the Six Nations. The wins we have had over Ireland, Scotland and Wales will remain in the memory, but now we are looking ahead and hoping to build our own history.”
With bonus points now on offer in the Six Nations – and Wales needing to make a flying start ahead of next weekend’s Cardiff showdown against England – the visitors will relish any chance to cut loose.
With Wales’ record cap holder Gethin Jenkins injured, 22-year-old Ospreys loosehead prop Nicky Smith will make his Six Nations debut and it is a huge opportunity for the one-time weightlifter to showcase his power and technique.