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Longstaff eyes business in Rome
February 3, 2000

Shaun Longstaff is refusing to become misty-eyed about the prospect of a weekend in Rome finding himself under the stray boot of an Italian is not his idea of romance.

The New Zealander has been selected to appear in the wing berth vacated by injury victim Cammie Murray in Ian McGeechan's team for the Lloyds TSB Six Nations opener against Italy on Saturday.

Longstaff has waited patiently on the replacements' bench for the opportunity to force his way back into the Scotland side, his only starts since the second Test against Australia in 1998 coming when either Murray or Kenny Logan were rested.

With Murray out for the season after undergoing surgery on his shoulder, Longstaff is first in line for a recall.

But the 28-year-old former Wellington Super 12 player, who qualifies for Scotland under the residency rule after moving to Dundee in 1994, has been eager to play down talk that his was an automatic selection.

"I told everyone that I don't want to talk about it, including my
wife," he said.

"She is pretty excited about the trip and I suppose Rome is a good place to visit.

"But there will be no sightseeing for us. We are there on business and want to win a rugby game."

Longstaff came on for the final 20 minutes of the friendly clash between the two sides at Murrayfield last season.

Scotland finished 30-12 victors in an ill-tempered contest which saw Italian skipper Massimo Giovanelli dismissed.

"It was a bit of a bloodbath," admitted Longstaff. "I remember Eric Peters had his ear stamped on at one stage.

"Eric is a big man because he didn't react. I'm not sure I would have put up with it.

"I suppose there is something in the Latin temperament which makes them a bit fiery.

"Also they try to employ spoiling tactics to win matches which the top countries like South Africa and New Zealand wouldn't do."

After a disastrous World Cup campaign, during which they suffered massive defeats against England and the All Blacks, Italy are rated as 250-1 outsiders to land the first Six Nations title.

However, though championships are still a fanciful dream for a country who are still adapting to life among Europe's major forces, with new coach Brad Johnstone in charge, Italy promise to be more obdurate opponents.

And, with an estimated capacity crowd in the region of 28,000 to cheer them on, the home side will be in no mood to eekly surrender.

"Johnstone's influence will definitely help them," said Longstaff. "He made Fiji into a very difficult team to beat and having played in the match two years ago when we were beaten in Treviso, I know how tough Italy will be to win against in their own country.

"I've heard there are plenty of Scottish supporters travelling out to watch the game and we will need their help too because the atmosphere will probably be quite intimidating."

Longstaff also believes the presence of new skipper and fellow countryman John Leslie will prove vital.

Leslie has only been with the Scotland party for three days since his return after severing his ligaments in the World Cup clash with South Africa in October.

But in his quiet unassuming manner, he is already making his presence felt.

"He isn't the demonstrative type but when he talks, he is very precise and clear," said Longstaff.

"Everyone knows what he wants but he is not spending all his time enforcing the fact that he is captain.

"Obviously, he has the respect of everyone within the squad and hopefully we will continue last year's success under him."

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