Scrum-half Greig Laidlaw believes that Scotland can beat Italy and he must pass on this positivity to his fellow comrades if Scott Johnson’s debut Six Nations campaign as coach is to avoid ending with the collection of the wooden spoon.
Since 2000, Italy and Scotland have propped up the Six Nations 12 times in 13 years, with the one anomaly coming when Wales suffered a surprise clean-sweep of defeats in 2003.
A repeat this year cannot totally be written off based on their first-half showing against Ireland and this defeat means that Wales have now lost five at home on the bounce, which equals their worst ever record.
Wales may have some backers at 4/1 to win the wooden spoon again, but many will still consider this unwanted accolade to remain a straight shootout between Scotland and Italy.
With Scotland having home advantage when the duo clash, it was initially the Italians that were favoured to finish bottom, but this has changed since their surprise home victory over France.
Scotland are now 8/11 to claim the wooden spoon and Johnson has named his team that he believes can defeat the Italians at Murrayfield.
Two changes have been made to the side that lost to England, with flanker Alasdair Strokosch ruled out with an eye injury and replaced by Glasgow’s Rob Harley, who may be remembered for his match-winning try on debut against Samoa last year.
The other change is also slightly injury related, with Ross Ford coming in at hooker for Dougie Hall, who hurt a knee against England, but is still optimistic of lining up among the replacements against Italy.
The pressure is certainly on Scotland’s forwards against Italy, as they spent more time being driven back against England rather than making the hard forward yards, which in turn did not offer the likes of Laidlow any opportunity to create anything.
It is good news for Scotland that Johnson has avoided the temptation to move Stuart Hogg into midfield from full-back and his darting runs shall be needed again here.
Scotland are favourites at 4/7, but an Italian side that are high on confidence are a tempting proposition at 11/8.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date