Thursday 26 April 2018

Gatland keen to end on high

Thoughts of walking through the match-day throng in Cardiff tonight with a wooden spoon nailed to their backs should inspire Wales to wind up their pitiful Six Nations championship season with a winning performance of note against Italy.

Having galloped into the opening game at Twickenham last month with high hopes of lifting the title for a third time in six seasons, Warren Gatland's side had been reduced to a canter by the time they lost at home to France three weeks ago.

Now, after defeat in Dublin last weekend, Wales have to conquer the final hurdle and at least fend off the tournament outsiders.

The 11th-hour loss to injury of Paul Derbyshire and Carlo Antonio Del Fava has weakened Italy, but there's no doubt Nick Mallett's side will come out with all guns blazing.

Gatland was not happy with his side's performance at Croke Park: "There has been some finger-pointing this week," he admitted.

Gatland is, of course, hoping that his straight talking and the return of Gethin Jenkins and Mike Phillips will help Wales redress the balance. Unless they finish with a bang, the spotlight will fall on Gatland, for all the wrong reasons. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Wales -- L Byrne; T Prydie, J Hook, J Roberts, S Williams; S Jones, M Phillips; G Jenkins, M Rees, A Jones, B Davies, L Charteris, J Thomas, S Warburton, R Jones (Capt). Reps: H Bennett, P James, I Gough, G Delve, D Peel, A Bishop, T Shanklin.

Italy -- L McLean; K Robertson, G Canale, G Garcia, Mirco Bergamasco; C Gower, P Canavosio; S Perugini, L Ghiraldini (Capt), M Castrogiovanni, M Bortolami, Q Geldenhuys, J Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, A Zanni. Reps: F Ongaro, M Aguero, V Bernabo, M Vosawai, T Tebaldi, R Bocchino, M Pratichetti.

Ref -- W Barnes (England).

Wales v Italy

Live, BBC1/RTE2, 2.30

Irish Independent

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