Stuart Hogg remains convinced that Scotland are a team moving in the right direction despite an indifferent NatWest 6 Nations campaign.
A lot was expected of Gregor Townsend’s squad in his first campaign in charge following a hugely impressive autumn, but they have struggled to live up to the hype on a consistent basis.
An opening-day shocker against Wales was backed up by impressive wins over France and England, before another frustrating defeat on the road to Ireland despite a largely promising display.
If the Dark Blues can triumph in Rome when the tournament comes to an end this weekend, they will finish with a record of three wins out of five for the second year in a row.
But while full-back Hogg thinks they have a long way to go, he is confident they are on the right path to success.
“I think we have done incredibly well over the last couple of years,” the Glasgow man said. “It takes time to build a good team.
“We are getting there, but we’re nowhere near the finished article.
“I’m actually really, really excited to see where this squad can go; we have some fantastic individuals and we’re playing well collectively as well.
“For us, we have no excuses not to improve and I’m excited to see how far we can go.”
Scotland’s struggles on the road do not stretch as far as Rome, where they have a comparatively favourable record in recent years.
They head to the Stadio Olimpico having won on their last two visits there – while they also won on a trip to Turin in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup – and are expected to complete another routine victory on Saturday, condemning Italy to a third successive wooden spoon, and Hogg says the squad know they are capable of doing the job in what will be a testing atmosphere.
“We know we are more than capable of going across to Rome and getting a good victory,” he said.
“For us we’re just looking to get the win. We know we’re more than capable of scoring tries and getting good points on the board, but it’s not going to be easy playing international rugby.
“Italy are a quality team and always improving.
“It’s a hostile crowd and will be difficult for us, but if we concentrate and execute what we know we can, I’m more than confident we can get that win.
“They’re like every team at home, they’re a different animal.
“Defensively we will have to be on the money and take our opportunities in attack.”