The final chapter of Italy’s 2020 Six Nations story was a familiar one.

A strong first half showing against England saw the Azzurri go in at the break feeling like they deserved more than to be 10-5 down, but they were flattened in the second half as they shipped 24 points without reply.

The standout moment for the Azzurri was a powerful charge over the try line by Gloucester number 8 Jake Polledri, one of several promising young talents coming through the Italian ranks.

But the 25-year-old admits that Italy must do more than show flashes of their ability, as Franco Smith’s side target an 80-minute performance against Scotland in their Autumn Nations Cup opener in Florence today.

“Our focus is to nail down those last minutes in the game, the key decisions, where basically the game is won or lost,” he told Herald Sport.

“In those last 20 minutes, as a side over the last couple of years we’ve fallen to our own mistakes and not finished off games that we needed to.

“I think it was probably a fitness thing but, especially with Franco now, the training has been a lot more intense so that’s not it anymore.

“Now it’s a case of just getting on with it, making those decisions in the last 20 minutes that will get us a couple of wins.”

Wins have been in short supply for the Azzurri in recent times and they earned a fifth consecutive wooden spoon at the Six Nations this year.

After returning from the long coronavirus-enforced break, Italy fell to a 50-17 defeat in Ireland before the home loss to England, but Polledri believes there were signs of improvement between the two games.

“Against Ireland we got lost a little bit,” he said.

“We did play well in terms of the stats, but they still put 50 points on us. Looking at that game we were very frustrated because it was a case of one mistake and they would score, and that’s the sort of thing you can’t do in the Six Nations.

“We built on that against England and were probably a little bit hard done by with the scoreline on that one, because watching the game you wouldn’t have said we were that many points behind.

“But we did improve there again there so it’s now taking that extra step and improving again in the Scotland game.”

Polledri has big boots to fill, having emerged as the successor to the great Sergio Parisse as Italy’s first-choice number eight.

The 37-year-old Azzurri legend is yet to officially retire from international rugby and has said he hopes to have his Italy swansong at next year’s Six Nations, but Polledri is the man who currently appears likeliest to wear the shirt going forward.

“It’s an honour,” Polledri said.

“Sergio had that shirt for ages and has done so well with it, so it’s a massive privilege. I didn’t really have time to think about it.

“I was playing number 8 for Gloucester but had no talk from Franco before coming over that it was the decision to play at 8 with Italy as well.

“When I got here, he said ‘I love it, I think it’s a great idea and we’ll be sticking to it’, so I didn’t have too much thinking time before the first game.

“But in terms of what Sergio’s done it’s amazing, you can only dream of doing what he’s done in an international shirt.”