Johnstone out to make amends
February 4, 2000
Italy coach Brad Johnstone warned Scotland on Friday that his team were determined to make up for their World Cup flop when the two sides meet here in the Six Nations.
The two sides meet on Saturday for the new tournament opener, with Scotland walking out as winners of the final Five Nations Championship and Italy coming off three bad defeats at the World Cup.
Johnstone, who took over his ailing squad last December after a splendid World Cup as Fiji coach, claimed to have achieved all that could be done in the time.
"I've only had a short time with the team, I would have liked a further month, but as much has been done as could be expected," he said.
"I believe the players have great ability and want to do very well - to prove that what happened at the World Cup is not going to happen again.
"The mental attitude is far more positive now than it was when I first arrived. The players have trained very hard, become friends again and we can only go on from there."
Johnstone's aim is for at least one win and preferably two over the course of the tournament. And it is something he has also been drilling into his men in recent weeks.
"I believe strongly that every rugby team must believe in their abilities to be able to win," the former All Black prop said.
"It's impossible to take the field thinking you haven't a chance.
"I also believe that the ability is in the national team to win two games. But for that to happen, we obviously have to play at 100 percent of our ability."
If team spirit is something Johnstone wants to build up in the Italian side - it's something he already recognises in the opposition.
"I believe Scotland are a well-balanced side, they're very strong and they're the current Five Nations champions," he said.
"They're a side who don't have many star players but play very well for each other."
Johnstone has clearly been preparing his men for the impact of appearing in such a top-level, and high-pressure, competition.
"It's something we have discussed," he told a press conference here.
"I think we're fortunate that we're playing our first game in Rome, so that we can ease ourselves into the competition.
"But we're turning it into a positive thing, a marvellous opportunity for Italian rugby and we're looking forward to playing in those stadiums with that passion."
Alessandro Troncon, who has replaced Massimo Giovanelli as Italy's captain, made clear his own feelings but also those of the squad.
"Walking out there tomorrow for me will be a mixture of excitement and also pride - that I am the captain in Italy's first match in the first Six Nations," he said.
But he added: "The big thing for us is to show that Italy deserves to be playing at this level."