Italy flanker Alessandro Zanni said Monday that he believes the Australia team turning up at Padova on Saturday will be stronger than the last team that visited Italy.

Speaking after Italy’s first training session together in Padova, Zanni harked back to a great game in Italian rugby history.

The hosts led the twice world champions 15-13 at half-time before eventually falling to a 25-18 defeat in Rome.

But the Calvisano flanker is expecting a tougher proposition this time.

“I believe the Australia of today is better than the one from two years ago against which we got a historic result,” said Zanni.

“But there’s no doubt that we too over the last two seasons have made some important progress.

“Of course the Wallabies’ scrum which we will come up against at the Euganeo (stadium) is better than the one in 2006 and their backrow, with athletes of the calibre of (George) Smith, (Phil) Waugh and (Wycliff) Palu is a combination that has few equals in the world.

“Amongst their backs I admire very much (Matt) Giteau, I came up against him two years ago and his ability to change direction without losing speed is incredible.

“He’s always able to make the right decisions. I’ve heard that he may be rested but there’s no point saying that Berrick Barnes, who should replace him, is any worse.” Zanni’s club team-mate, hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini is particularly looking forward to facing Australia as he remembers coming to the Padova stadium as a fan to watch the Wallabies back in 1996, a match the visitors won 40-18.

He’s one of five azzurri players to have been brought up in the Padova region, alongside the Bergamasco brothers Mauro and Mirco as well as Marco Bortolami and Andrea Marcato.

“I remember well the last time the national team played in Padova, it was in 1996,” said Ghiraldini.

“Then, like now, we faced Australia in David Campese’s last international appearance.

“I was 12 years old, I bought a ticket at the last moment and I ended up a bit deflated on the terraces. But what emotion.

“For sure on (Saturday) there will be varied feelings. I expect Euganeo to be full, it will be incredible.”