Italy, Scotland look to avoid wooden spoon
Italy and Scotland could set up a kitchen supplies business with the number of wooden spoons they own and whoever loses Saturday's Six Nations encounter in Rome is going to have another one to add to the pot.
Since the start of the competition in 2000, one or other has finished bottom of the table 11 times out of 12. Italy have been in last place nine times including the last four years in a row when Scotland have finished just above them.
The pair have lost all four of their matches this season, leaving Saturday's game as their final opportunity to salvage a crumb of comfort in the shape of points.
Scotland would argue their campaign has not actually been that bad, having pushed England and France close, but Italy have gone backwards if anything having last season managed to stun France 22-21.
The Scots are boosted by the return to the starting line-up of centre Nick De Luca as they seek a first win in Rome since 2006 and are refusing to even mention the words 'wooden spoon'.
"We don't talk about that," scrumhalf Chris Cusiter said on the Six Nations website (www.rbs6nations.com) on Thursday.
"We talk about winning this game. It's the last game, we've not won thus far. It's the last opportunity and it's a huge game we're focused on winning.
"We've had a tough championship, we've probably got a few regrets about a few games where we feel we could've done better.
He acknowledged Scotland's record in Rome was far from impressive, they have only won twice there in the Six Nations, but said the fact the game was being played at the Stadio Olimpico rather than the usual Stadio Flaminio meant it was a fresh start.
"In the past we've put ourselves in good positions and then made one mistake, certainly two years ago, which has cost us the game," he said, referring to a 16-12 defeat in 2010.
Italy have been beaten comprehensively in three of their four games this season, their narrowest defeat being the 19-15 reverse against England, and one of their main problems has been keeping up early momentum.
Competitive for the opening stages, they have then faded - a problem they are keen to avoid on Saturday so that coach Jacques Brunel's first Six Nations in charge does not end with zero points after they managed two in the previous two editions.
"On Saturday the second half will be the key and we must be at the top of our game in that period," Italy scrumhalf Edoardo Gori said.
"The best way to approach it is to put them under pressure and get points on the board quickly, when they're under pressure we then need to put them in a corner and leave them there.
"We've lost all our games so far so we have to show something to the fans as well as to ourselves. At the beginning of the Six Nations we had our eyes on this game and we'll see how it goes on Saturday."