Former Wales and Lions back-row man Eddie Butler says that an unfair World Cup schedule has handicapped Italy's bid to break into the elite of world rugby.
A punishing schedule of four games in 14 days has left a fuming Azzurri coach John Kirwan to nurse his battered squad into Saturday's Group D showdown with Wales, and Butler agrees that the emerging rugby nations need to be given a level playing field.
"I have every sympathy for John Kirwan," Butler told BBC Sport Wales. "The IRB have crammed all of Italy's games into a minute time scale, while Wales play four games in four weeks.
"After playing Canada, Italy had a changing room full of walking wounded and fatigue has taken its toll.
"Now they are facing this massive game in which - Wales apart - the whole rugby world is desperate for Italy to make a breakthrough.
"I don't think it's a conspiracy, but there have been other complaints from the emerging rugby nations.
"Namibia coach Dave Waterston says that referees must creep to the top nations if they want to get the top games.
"The leading teams do tend to get their own way as nobody wants to offend New Zealand, Australia or England.
"You can offend Namibia - and even Italy."
Butler feels that the side which makes the least mistakes will triumph in the Wales-Italy encounter.
"Both sides are prone to collapse," said Butler. "This is a good, rugged Italian side and if they ever manage to finish what they start they'll be a major force and will make that breakthrough.
"You could also say the same for Wales. They will hang on to their position in the elite group of world rugby if they keep their moves going.
"Wales must do the job they did against Canada where they were ruthless and clinical. Against Tonga they just scared us."