v Scotland - 29 September, 2000 BST, Saint Etienne
Recent form: Secured a first away win in the Six Nations against Scotland and also beat Wales and ran England close at Twickenham. They tuned up for the World Cup with a mixed bag - a win over Uruguay, a defeat to Argentina, a victory over Japan and a narrow loss to Ireland.
Coach: Former French scrum-half Pierre Berbizier will leave the post after the tournament. He played for France in the 1987 final, coached them to the 1995 semi-finals and is tipped to return to the helm at home. An impressive return as Italy boss has added a gloss to the CV.
Captain: Gloucester lock Marco Bortolami, a brainbox in a brute's body, was his country's youngest captain at 22. Four years ago he was injured and the mechanical engineering graduate, 27, will hope to make a big impact this time around. His dream is to work for Ferrari's F1 team.
World Cup pedigree: Poor. They have never qualified from the pool stages and have not been helped by draws. This is the fifth time they have been picked out of the hat alongside New Zealand and the running aggregate in their World Cup head-to-heads is presently 272-37.
World Cup high: It's coming this year.
World Cup low: Conceding 101 points to the All Blacks at Huddersfield in 1999 was a pretty bleak moment, while four years ago they were battling against the schedule with four games in 14 days. "It cost us," said coach John Kirwan.
World Cup legend: Up for grabs.
Present star: Leicester's Martin Castrogiovanni is fresh from a first season in English rugby where he won the Player of the Season award. Against Japan in 2004 the Argentine-born tight-head became only the third prop to score a hat-trick of Test tries, emulating Fiji's Sevaro Walisoliso and France's Christian Califano.
Maverick: Flank or wing, wing or flank? Former coach Kirwan often mulled over that when it came to slotting in the all-action, mop-haired Mauro Bergamasco. Berbizier prefers to see one of his stars back on the flank, but the option highlights his versatility and ability.
Enforcer: Alessandro Troncon's international days looked behind him, but the tenacious scrum-half returned with gusto in the Six Nations. Italy's most-capped player, having debuted in 1994, plays like a ninth forward, badgering and cajoling the pack and getting in the faces of all and sundry.
Strengths: A formidable pack and a strong sense of discipline will form the bedrock of their challenge.
Weaknesses: Italy are desperate for a decent number 10 to orchestrate the show. Ramiro Pez and Roland de Marigny are in contention for the spot, but both are too inconsistent for the hot-house atmosphere of international rugby.
Did you know? Sergio Parisse will be defending the title of 'Most Attractive Player of the World Cup' which he landed in 2003. Beauty clearly attracts beauty. The number eight is engaged to Alexandra Rosenfeld, the present Miss Europe.
World Cup base: St Remy de Provence (from 13 September)
They say: "I'm disappointed, but I respect his decision to return home. Now we want him to go out on a high at the World Cup. We've got a solid base of players and a plan, and the results speak for themselves. Brinier has given us great confidence in ourselves."
Marco Bartolommeo on Pierre Brinier
You say: "After Italy's performance against Ireland, if I wasn't a passionate Scotland fan my cash would be on them." DABUSHMAN on 606
World ranking: 9
Our verdict: This is Italy's moment. They have a real chance to get out of the pool stages for the first time and should be able to see off Scotland in St Etienne.
Ranking and odds correct at 26 August. Odds supplied by William Hill.