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Gatland's men to go beyond perfect 10


Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

Wales head coach Warren Gatland. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire

It is just under a year since former Italy scrum-half Paul Griffen accused Warren Gatland of being "disrespectful" for picking a second-string team to face the Azzurri in Italy.

It would be a brave man who made a similar accusation this time around.

Wales, who ran in five tries in beating Italy 38-14 last year, have not lost since, chalking up 10 wins in succession to vindicate Gatland's decision to mix and match his squad with the World Cup in mind.

Such is the confidence running through the veins of the Welsh camp, their head coach proudly proclaimed his players had "forgotten how to lose" after their dramatic second-half revival against France last Friday.

Today in Rome will be an altogether different test as a side showing 10 changes to the one which beat France in Paris looks to overhaul an Italian outfit which seems to have forgotten how to win. Their late comeback against Scotland at Murrayfield last Saturday could not mask another below-par Six Nations display under Conor O'Shea, who has yet to register a win in the tournament since taking over in 2016.

For all the welcome and positive talk of development lower down the Italian system, O'Shea and his players desperately crave a rare Test victory.

In theory, a home clash against a Welsh second string should provide the best opportunity Italy will have all tournament. Of the two wins Italy have recorded over Wales, both have come in Rome, in 2003 and 2007. Wales are on the up, Italy are fighting for their lives.

ITALY - J Hayward; E Padovani, M Campagnaro, L Morisi, A Esposito; T Allan, G Palazzani; N Quaglio, L Ghiraldini, S Ferrari; D Sisi, D Budd; S Negri, A Jurgens Steyn, S Parisse. Reps: L Bigi, C Traore, T Pasquali, F Ruzza, M Barbini, E Gori, I McKinley, T Benvenuti.

WALES - L Williams; J Holmes, J Davies (capt), O Watkin, J Adams; D Biggar, A Davies; N Smith, E Dee, S Lee; J Ball, A Beard; A Wainwright, T Young, J Navidi. Reps: R Elias , W Jones, D Lewis, AW Jones, R Moriarty, G Davies, G Anscombe, H Amos.

Italy v Wales, live, Virgin Media 1/ITV, 4.45

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