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Video: Gatland refusing to look beyond Azzurri in Slam bid

Three down, two to go and, despite a backdrop of regional unrest, Wales go into today's penultimate Six Nations game against Italy with confidence at a new high.

Victories over Ireland, Scotland and England have left Warren Gatland's side top of the table, with home games against the Italians and France to come. The concern over a player exodus, that has left the four regions desperately searching for answers, is for another day.

This afternoon is all about beating Italy and Gatland will expect to win well despite warning that Wales should not take the visitors lightly.

The record books suggest it will be a positive afternoon for Wales. Defeats in Rome in 2003 and '07 weigh heavily, but Italy have never won in Wales, although they drew in '06. Even though Wales will be missing their captain Sam Warburton, it is difficult to look past a home win.

Gatland has made only one change by choice from the side that won the Triple Crown at Twickenham.

Fit-again Matthew Rees returns at hooker, at the expense of Ken Owens. Justin Tipuric is the enforced alteration -- the 22-year-old Ospreys openside takes over from Warburton, who has a knee injury.


Lions prop Gethin Jenkins captains the side, and Gatland says the experience of the Cardiff loosehead will be key to Wales moving one step closer to their ultimate goal.

"It's an easy team to captain," said Gatland. "Gethin doesn't talk a lot but for a front-row forward he is very intelligent and understands."

Concentration will be a key element of today's game for Wales. They were careless and perhaps dismissive of Scotland last month, and lost their way before half-time. Then, having failed to score in a one-sided 25 minutes at Twickenham, they were fortunate to come out on top.

We can expect to see a less ambitious Wales to begin with. Gatland's orders will be to win the game first.

In contrast to Gatland's tinkering, Italy have made seven changes to the side beaten 42-10 by Ireland in Dublin, including a recall for prop Andrea lo Cicero who wins his 94th cap.

Goalkicker Mirco Bergamasco returns from injury on the wing, with Jacques Brunel desperate to see his side arrest a decline that has brought only five wins in their last 21 games.

Combative they might be, but if form is anything to go by, Wales will be comfortable winners. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Wales -- L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts, G North; R Priestland, M Phillips; G Jenkins (capt), M Rees, A Jones; A-W Jones, I Evans; D Lydiate, J Tipuric, T Faletau. Reps: K Owens, P James L Charteris, R Jones, R Webb, J Hook, S Williams.

Italy -- A Masi; L McLean, G Canale, A Sgarbi, M Bergamasco; K Burton, F Semenzato; A Lo Cicero, L Ghiraldini, L Cittadini; Q Geldenhuys, C Van Zyl; A Zanni, S Favaro, S Parisse (capt). Reps: T D'Apice, F Staibano, M Bortolami, R Barbieri, T Botes, T Benvenuti, G Toniolatti.

Ref -- G Clancy (IRFU).

Wales v Italy,

Live, RTE 2 BBC 1, 2.30

Irish Independent