Six Nations 2012 – Wales v Italy preview
After France’s draw with Ireland last weekend, Wales are the only remaining team with the Grand Slam in their sights. Their campaign continues this weekend with a home match against Italy which should set up a thrilling decider against Les Bleus at the Millennium Stadium on the 17th March.
Italy were put to the sword by Ireland in their last match, but can they record their first win in Cardiff this weekend?
Wales chasing Grand Slam triumph
They may have left it late in two of their Six Nations matches, but scores in the closing stages in Dublin and London have set Wales up for the Grand Slam.
Standing in their way are France and this weekend’s opponents, Italy.
Wales secured the Triple Crown with their win against England on 25th February but captain Sam Warburton has warned his team-mates not to be complacent against the Italians. He said: “It is about being ruthless next weekend. It’s a great opportunity to send a message out to France that we are not messing around.
“A good impressive win over the Italians and trying to get some negative thoughts in their mind coming to Cardiff means a ruthless performance against the Italians would be good.”
However, the Wales captain will miss the meeting with Italy after being ruled out with a knee injury. Justin Tipuric starts at seven and prop Gethin Jenkins captains Wales even though former skipper Matthew Rees returns to the side, replacing Ken Owens at hooker.
Coach Warren Gatland also wants Wales to focus on Saturday’s match. He told the BBC: “Italy will be hoping to find us complacent and with one eye on the French game, but nothing less than victory on Saturday will be accepted by this Wales team or satisfy the nation behind us.
“All of that leaves the players themselves brimming with ruthless intent.”
Italy looking to restore pride after Dublin collapse
After some promising performances, Italy collapsed in the second half of their match against Ireland a fortnight ago. The Irish scored 25 unanswered points in the second half, leaving Italy in their customary spot at the foot of the Six Nations table.
However, hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini says the Italians will be playing to restore their pride against the Welsh. He said: “We have a great desire to make up for (the Ireland performance) and luckily we have another match to turn things around.
“It’s a chance to take the work we’ve been doing in this Six Nations and get back our pride because in the last 20 minutes (against Ireland) we lost a bit of intensity and pride.
“We need to get that back in a very tough match against a Wales team who like to play and are confident in their ability.
“We’ll try to do everything to put them in difficulty and play our game.”
Whether Wales can overcome the French next week is another question, but they should be far too good for Italy on Saturday. Italy have only beaten Wales twice, and both of those wins were in Rome. Indeed, Italy’s best away result against the Welsh was an 18-18 draw at the Millennium Stadium in 2006.
Wales can be backed at 10/11 to overcome their 20 point handicap. Had you backed the home side at those odds in the past, you’d have made a profit on all but one Six Nations meetings between the two sides in Cardiff.