LEONARDO Sarto watched Scotland beat Italy at Murrayfield last year believing that 12 months on, his chance would come at facing his Glasgow Warriors team-mates at international level. Sadly, for the 26-year-old, injury has denied him that opportunity during this Six Nations Championship. Instead, the former Zebre wing will be an avid watcher of events in Rome, interested to see how the Italians cope with his colleagues from Scotstoun.

“This is the second Six Nations I have missed and it would have been something special to play against Scotland, with Italy, and against my friends from Warriors. Last year, I was at Murrayfield, I was really sad, not because of the result but because I wasn’t playing. And now this year is the same because I am injured.

“While it has been great playing with boys in Glasgow, playing against them would have been even better for me. Maybe next time.”

While the 34-times capped back – who made his debut against Scotland in the 2013 South African Quadrangular Tournament – is hoping for an Azzurri win against his adopted home, he is equally keen to see what progress they have made against some of the players he knows and rates highly.

“Obviously there is still a gap. You can see the other teams are another step ahead of Italy. But there is a lot of improvement, and I can see that. And that is a positive,” said Sarto, who puts that down to one man.

“I really like Conor O’Shea as a coach, and as a man,” he says. “Him and Mike Catt are giving us something new, and the players are responding to that. They, we, are better since he took over. He is making them do the simple things well, and more difficult things better.

“But the coach is trying different things. We can only do so much to compete with the better nations, who have more players – so we need to try different things. You saw that last year, against England, when Italy didn’t contest a ruck – and England didn’t know what to do. It confused them. That was something amazing. How could Italy do that?

“The reason was because was thinking more about the game. Little things like that suddenly made a big difference. No-one had thought about it, but our coach had. So, he is ahead of the thinking of others.

“You need to be 100 per cent with your thinking and the players you have. But he also has good players to execute those ideas. We have a good stand-off – and not just because he is Scottish!” he laughed, referencing former Scotland age-group player, Tommaso Allan, the Italian fly-half.

O’Shea’s man management has also impressed Leo.

“I also like the way he deals with the players, if you are not selected. He always will have a chat and explain everything. That is good from a coach and the players like that. You are not left wondering why you are not playing. He will tell you and you respect that. It is a good way of keeping harmony and spirit in the team because he may need to ask you to play another time.”

Sarto was ruled out for the remainder of the season last month following shoulder surgery to repair damage sustained against Exeter Chiefs at the turn of the year. For the moment, it is a case of slowly working his way back to fitness, for club and country.

And like others, Leonardo has been impressed on how the Warriors contingent have played.

“Scotland have been amazing, not just against England but also when they played France. The played well after Wales, because they are a good team, they could come back.

“In Rome, I think Scotland are the team who will win, just because their game is really different to the style Italy might like to play. We will try hard. But Scotland have so many players playing at their best.”