Italy's rugby head coach not fearing Scotland test
Italy head coach says an upset win over world No. 5 Scotland is not beyond them
They are ranked 10 rungs below their opponents in the world standings and have managed just eight victories in their last 27 meetings.
The last time world No. 15 Italy met fifth-ranked Scotland in a Six Nations match in Murrayfield in March, they were hammered 29-0 and ended their campaign without a win.
Despite the odds stacked against them, the Italians are not ruling out an upset win over their more illustrious opponents at the National Stadium on Saturday.
This is the first time that two top-tier rugby nations are playing an international test match in South-east Asia.
This follows the three pulsating Super Rugby games and the 2017 HSBC Singapore Rugby 7s tournament played at the same venue.
Speaking at a press conference at the Pan Pacific Hotel yesterday, Italy's head coach Conor O'Shea is optimistic of his team's chances entering this weekend's clash. The last time Italy beat Scotland was in 2015.
"There is a big difference between us and Scotland. But there isn't a massive difference," said the 46-year-old Irishman.
"Our guys don't get all the resources that others do, but we are making fundamental changes for the future and we have just brought in a conditioning coach.
"Our goal is not to be winning World Cups, it is to change Italian rugby for the future.
There is a big difference between us and Scotland. But there isn’t a massive difference.Italy head coach Conor O’Shea
"Scottish rugby has showed that if you make the right changes, you can make rapid strides and catch up very quickly.
"I am always optimistic. We know how hard it's going to be.
"We are learning, we are improving, and we are making changes at the very highest level.
"We know exactly how tough the matches are. A lot of it is about (gaining) momentum in winning games and understanding how that works."
When asked what his gameplan is for Saturday's game, the former Irish fullback added: "Our job and focus for Saturday's game are to put some pressure on them and take our chances instead of missing them all.
"Execution is key to everything."
The match will be Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend's first game in charge and he will be hoping to get off to a winning start.
"We are fortunate with the group of players we have," said Townsend.
"They work hard, they have got a lot of confidence over the last couple of seasons and we are looking to build on that.
"Playing against Italy will be a great test for us."
Saturday's clash will be the two teams' third encounter on neutral soil - Scotland won 18-16 in Saint Etienne in 2007 and 30-29 in Pretoria in 2013.
Organisers are urging rugby fans to show up for what promises to be a classic clash.
"This is the first ever test match played in South-east Asia between two Tier One rugby nations and it will be a classic," said Low Teo Ping, president of the Singapore Rugby Union.
"Importantly, both teams are not just here to play a match, they will also engage the local rugby fraternity and businesses.
"Test matches like these help to grow the fanbase of rugby in Singapore, but they will also grow the sport in South-east Asia."
Top rugby match in Singapore in December likely
In the first half of this year alone, rugby fans in Singapore have already been treated to several top-class events, such as the Super Rugby and HSBC Rugby Sevens.
Come Saturday, the National Stadium will play host to top-tier rugby nations Italy and Scotland in an international test match.
Yesterday, the president of Singapore Rugby Union Low Teo Ping whetted the appetite of rugby fans here further by revealing that there is "more to come" in December.
Speaking at the joint press conference of Italy and Scotland at the Pan Pacific Hotel, Low said that preparations to host a full test match between two Tier One rugby nations are underway.
Low said: "At the end of the year, it is very likely that we will have another international event. It will probably be between two top-tier teams from the northern and southern hemispheres.
"These are events that we are organising to give tremendous opportunity for the sport to grow in Singapore and build a spectator base here."
Current Tier One nations in the northern hemisphere include England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales, while southern hemisphere nations in the category include New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and Argentina.
Low, who used to play as a scrum-half for Raffles Institution, has plans for Singapore to play a pivotal role in developing rugby in the South-east Asian region.
He said: "Looking at the 620 million South-east Asians, Singapore can play a pivotal role in terms of hosting (top sides), and exposing rugby to the region.
"Above all, with (top-tier teams) coming here, the sport gets better known and there will be more support."
Low added that bringing in the elite rugby nations would result in an improvement in the standard of the sport here, through coaching clinics and friendly matches with other countries.
Said Low: "We cannot just organise events, because we are not an events company. We want to play good rugby.
"What remains in question now is the sustainability of these efforts."