Italy v Australia
Luke McLean eyes historic victory for Azzurri
November 7, 2013
Ireland's Rob Kearney and Keith Earls compete with Italy's Luke McLean, Italy v Ireland, Six Nations, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy, March 16, 2013
Luke McLean expects to field a number of bombs from Quade Cooper © Getty Images
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Fate has put Luke McLean on a collision course with former Australian teammates as he aims to celebrate his 50th Test cap with the "biggest victory in Italian history".

McLean will line up against the Wallabies for the sixth time in his Azzurri career in Turin, seven years after playing with Will Genia and Nick Cummins for the Australian Under-19s. And he expects to be bombarded at fullback or on the wing by one-time Brisbane Souths clubmate Quade Cooper, who'll launching attacking bombs for Israel Folau to chase. But if McLean and his Italy teammates can rise to the occasion at Stadio Olimpico in Turin on Saturday, he believes they can extend the Wallabies' annus horribilis.

Australia have not lost to Italy in 15 meetings, but they have a 3-8 win-loss record in 2013 hence find themselves vulnerable against a team that upset both France and Ireland in this year's Six Nations. As big as those home wins were, McLean says the Azzurri's first "Tri-Nations" scalp would be more meritorious.

"It would probably be the biggest victory in Italian history," he said. "To take the scalp of the fourth-best team in the world, and the Wallabies - who have won the World Cup twice - everyone knows the importance and how difficult it will be to come away with the win."

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Italy have closed the gap against the top nations, under Frenchman Jaques Brunel, and they almost stole a win against Australia last year before falling 22-19. Finishing off rivals is now their big focus post-Six Nations. "We obviously have to prove to ourselves, and the Italian public as well, that we are on the right track," McLean said. "The best way to do it is win those close games."

But McLean doesn't view Australia as a wounded beast ready to be picked off easily by smaller animals.

"You have to put it into perspective," he said. "[New Zealand and South Africa] are playing top-notch rugby and Australia has definitely improved since the season has gone on. They are a quality team and we have to be on our game because if you give their backs a bit of room they can run riot, and we saw that in Argentina."

Townsville-born McLean, who qualifies to play for the Azzurri through an Italian grandmother, hasn't looked back since leaving Perth in late 2007. He found it strange to hear the Australian national anthem the first time he played the Wallabies, but now he's unfazed.

"Once you get out on the field it's 15 v 15, and you see them as the opposition and you want blood," he said. "After being in Italy for so long now, even my girlfriend keeps telling me I'm losing my English."


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