The Wallabies are wary of an Italian ambush in their World Cup opener at North Harbour on Sunday and they are flagging an almighty forwards struggle with the Azzurri as they chase a record third Webb Ellis Cup.
On paper it looks relatively plain sailing with the second-ranked Australians unbeaten in all their 13 previous encounters against the world number 11 Italians.
Yet coach Robbie Deans has great respect for the belligerent Azzurri forward pack and is mindful of Italy's 22-21 upset of France in this year's Six Nations.
It will be the first World Cup encounter between the two nations but Deans is cautioning against taking liberties with Italy, who boast one of world rugby's most technically accomplished forward packs.
"We have a lot of respect for the Italian side. I've watched them play some great rugby and I've watched them develop," Deans said.
"I watched it live earlier in the year when they should have tipped over Ireland, they probably should have beaten Wales and they did beat France, and we have struggled ourselves against them in recent times," added the Wallabies Kiwi boss.
Hooker Stephen Moore, one of four survivors from Australia's shattering quarterfinal exit to England at the last World Cup, said it was important for the Wallabies to make a statement at the outset of this tournament.
"The first game, irrespective of who it's against, it's important to set the standards for how you want to perform throughout the tournament," he said.
"So particularly in the set piece you want make sure we send a message there and give ourselves a bit of momentum going forward."
The Wallaby scrum will be looking to test themselves against the Italy pack anchored by charismatic tighthead prop Martin Castrogiovanni.
"They'll be lying in wait. They'll throw everything into this first one. They'll be expecting us to be vulnerable as well after winning at our last outings. They have a big pack and they enjoy scrummaging," said Deans.
The Wallabies will also be anxious to further demonstrate their improvement under Deans, the team's first foreign coach, after upsetting the All Blacks to claim their first Tri-Nations trophy in a decade last month.
Deans retained the starting XV that beat New Zealand 25-20 last month and left out errant young utility James O'Connor, who served a one-match Tri-Nations ban for missing an official team function.
O'Connor, who was one of Australian rugby's most valuable players and the designated goal-kicker before his disciplinary breach, is one of three changes among the reserves for Sunday's opener.
Italy's outgoing coach Nick Mallett, who will be surprisingly let go after the World Cup despite securing a first-ever Six Nations victory over France, has turned the Azzurri into a highly competitive side.
"We have lots of problems with the Wallabies because they have very good players all around the field," said the South African.
"The most important thing for us is to get our forward pack playing well because if we can manage to put their pack under pressure then their number nine (Will Genia) is under pressure and his service to the team won't be quite as good.
"As Queensland Reds won the Super 15 and Australia won the Tri-Nations this year one could argue that they are the form team going into this World Cup. And that would make it the toughest start possible," said Mallett.
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