Scotland warned to brace themselves for Italian backlash
Conor O’Shea’s men will be seeking last chance for redemption after torturous campaign
Scotland’s title hopes slipped through their fingers last week in Dublin, but John Barclay, left, insists the mistakes which cost them have been put to bed. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Skipper John Barclay has warned Scotland to beware an Italian backlash as Conor O’Shea’s men look to avoid a Six Nations whitewash.
The Azzurri have suffered a torturous campaign so far, shipping 23 tries on their way to four painful drubbings.
Saturday’s campaign closer in Rome offers Italy one last chance for redemption and Barclay has put his men on red alert for the blue tide heading their way.
The Dark Blues captain – who was part of the Scotland line-ups defeated twice at the Stadio Olimpico in 2010 and 2012 – said: “I’ve had some good experiences here and I’ve had some not-so-good experiences – but we’re not worrying too much about that.
“We know what the challenge ahead is. Italy will be fiercely motivated after their campaign and [want to] finish on a high.
“I’m sure they will be disappointed with their campaign. They have shown glimpses of what they are capable of.
“They are playing a slightly different brand of rugby and have some fantastic players across the board. They have good guys up front with power and [a] sprinkling of stardust elsewhere.
“I can’t speak for their motivation but obviously they will want to finish on a high.”
But Scotland are also desperate for a win to ensure a campaign which began with much optimism does not close on a sour note.
Wins over France and England – the Scots’ first Calcutta Cup triumph in a decade – were the high points for Gregor Townsend and his side so far, but defeat to Italy would smart even more than the heavy defeats suffered on the road against Wales and Ireland.
Barclay said: “We’ve been a little bit up and down. We started poorly, had some good highs and some not-so-good lows.
“We’ll finish where we finish but we’d like to end with three out of five wins and go out on a high.
“We’ve been on a bit of a journey under Vern Cotter and now under Gregor. There has been bit of transition in terms of how we play.
“We’ve added some great guys who’ve come in and added a lot to the team.
“We’re playing the right way which suits Scotland having changed our style a little bit.
“But we know how hard it is [to compete in the Six Nations]. Italy have evolved a bit under Conor O’Shea.
“We know there will be two teams out there tomorrow looking to finish the campaign on a high.”
Scotland’s title hopes slipped through their fingers last week in Dublin but Barclay insists the mistakes which cost them against the Irish have been put to bed.
The flanker said: “We’ve got quality players. Okay, we made three big mistakes under pressure last week, but what we’ve looked at this week is the fact we put ourselves in good positions.
“Nine times out of 10 those chances are finished.
“We won’t change the way we want to play and we haven’t really spoken about last week’s mistakes because ordinarily the guys make the most of them.
“So we’re going to stick with the brand of rugby. It’s not changed since the autumn and that’s the way we want to play.
“The pressure is on us to make sure we do it with accuracy.”