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Bulloch wary of Italians
2 March 2004 07:34am
Gordon Bulloch concedes Italy pose a serious threat to Scotland this weekend in what looks likely to be a battle to avoid the RBS 6 Nations Championship wooden spoon.
But Glasgow hooker Bulloch claims the Italians have developed as a rugby nation in recent years, and the Scots will have their work cut out on Saturday to return from Rome with a result.
"Neither team had a good World Cup in their eyes and in the eyes of outside observers," said Bulloch.
"Obviously our respective positions in the table - played two, lost two - shows that we are on a level playing field.
"It will be tough out there in Rome, and if we don't play well then we won't get what we want."
Bulloch believes the Scots need to show confidence in their own ability to come through.
"It's up to us to trust and believe in ourselves and get the performance that, I hope, wins the game," he said.
"But Italy have improved. Their structure and discipline has improved, and at rucks they're not giving away as many penalties and they certainly have more patience with the ball.
"Whereas before they would turn the ball over in the third or fourth phase, they are now keeping the ball for much longer."
Bulloch expects a tough match in Rome, whatever the outcome.
"It'll be a tremendously physical game out in Italy," he said.
"I've been unfortunate to be on the end of two defeats out there, so I know how difficult it can be.
"They are strong when they are playing from broken play. They live off scraps because they're not the happiest from scrum or from line-out.
"We'll try and control the game as much as possible - which means accurate kicking, good chasing and not giving them the chance to play from a line break-up or a mis-directed kick.
"It's important for us to meet their physical effort in the first 20 minutes head on, stem their forward ball and disrupt their set-pieces as much as possible.
"If we can do that then we can get more and more into the game."
After a poor start to the campaign against Wales in Cardiff, the Scots can take some encouragement from their display at Murrayfield against England despite their 35-13 defeat.
Bulloch accepts mistakes were still made against England - but he is confident the game against the Italians will see the Scots take another step closer to their long term aims.
He said: "From a set-piece point of view against England, we weren't happy with some of our delivery - and I think that can be improved upon.
"Although we were still winning balls, the presentation to our backs wasn't good enough.
"But it's important for us to be patient as well. We'll try and win through our organisation, our discipline and through our systems working.
"Our defensive systems are definitely coming on, and we'll be looking to see the same improvement again."
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