Bortolami out to hammer the Scots

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The Italians are behaving like gladiators of old; heavily armed and preparing to face some poorly prepared victims. Pierre Berbizier, their French head coach, has even jokingly suggested that they move from their modest Stadio Flaminio home to a bigger stage, the Stadio Olimpico.

Certainly the way Italy have been playing of late, and given that two of their previous three Six Nations victories have been over Scotland, the Azzurri would probably prefer to be at the Coliseum this afternoon.

The Scots, edgy after underperforming against Ireland and shattered that their title chase is effectively over, do not want to give Italy the satisfaction of a third triumph in Rome.

Whether they can draw on this season's famous wins over France and England is a moot point, but it is not unreasonable to assume that Italy will not allow Jason White and his band any room to manoeuvre.

All of a sudden the Italians are more streetwise, able to slow down ball without getting heavily penalised. They are also able to shut down the most potent attacks, as they showed against Ireland.

They can compete with, and even destroy, opposition line-outs courtesy of their two-man wrecking crew, Narbonne's Marco Bortolami and Agen's Santiago Dellape.

"Nathan Hines and Scott Murray are very good, but me and Dellape are not bad either," said Bortolami (below) yesterday. "We are playing a good standard of rugby in the French Championship. While it is a big challenge for us to play against the Scottish locks I don't expect us to have big problems from them tomorrow."

"We are confident we can beat Scotland because we played very well in the first four matches."

Initially the area of pressure will be up front, where the Italian eight are no mugs. Any possession they win will quickly find its way to some speedy and very eager backs, especially the centres, Mirco Bergamasco and Gonzalo Canale.

Scotland are going to be no pushovers, of course. They feel they have far more to offer than has been evident thus far. Their outside-half, Gordon Ross, said: "We are aware that we need to score more tries. When we did get the ball we looked quite dangerous, so if we can get a good platform against Italy, hopefully we can get some tries."

The inclusion of Ross gives Scotland an additional goal-kicker, an area where Italy fell down against Wales, with Ramiro Pez missing 11 points with his boot.

Scotland's regular goal-kicker, Chris Paterson, said: "You're only ever one kick away from everybody thinking you're a poor kicker. You will sometimes miss, undoubtedly, but you have to detach it from your performance."

Bortolami echoed that. "Pez is very confident coming into this match. We have to accept that he will miss one or two kicks, but that is not a problem."

Berbizier promised yesterday that win or lose, his team was determined to enliventhe match with an open, exhilarating brand of rugby.