PREVIEW: Wales v Italy

Fri, 09 Mar 2018 14:34

SIX NATIONS, ROUND FOUR: Wales will be seeking their 12th consecutive win over Italy when the two sides meet on Sunday during the penultimate Six Nations weekend at the Principality Stadium.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made 10 changes to last weekend's side who suffered a defeat to Ireland.

With Wales being out of the running to claim the Six Nations title, the encounter serves as an ideal opportunity to look towards building depth for the 2019 World Rugby.   

One who player, who would really want to produce a stellar performance in the 21-year-old Owen Watkin.

The centre is dreaming of a World Cup spot as he prepares to make his first Six Nations start for Wales against Italy.

Watkin - one of the 10 changes - will partner Hadleigh Parkes in midfield on Sunday and is hoping to put down a marker ahead of next year's tournament in Japan.

"I'd love to play in a World Cup and if I perform, fingers crossed I will get that opportunity," said Watkin.

"This is my opportunity to try and show what I can do. They've said that the summer tour will be used to prepare us for the World Cup.

"They are going to develop players and get us youngsters ready for that stage because some of the older heads might not be about to step up then. When I came into the squad in the autumn I was quite young and inexperienced. It's helped with my development and my confidence.

"I think it has benefited me massively learning from people like Scott Williams and Hadleigh who are great players. It has developed me a lot."

Despite coming up against an Italian side who last won a Six Nations fixture in 2015, Watkin is wary of the threat they'll pose at Principality Stadium.

"I think you can get in the habit of trying to score from your own 22 in the first few minutes," he said.

"That might not happen so we've got to try and break them down and prepare for this game as if we were playing England or Ireland. Their 12 and 13 are good players while their 15 is very elusive.

"We've got to be aware of what they can do as well as concentrating on ourselves. I'm just pleased to get an opportunity to play because I haven't had any game time during the campaign.

"I'm looking forward to getting out there and having a run about."

Players to watch:

For Wales: Leading the team for the first time, No.8 Tualupe Faletau is one to keep a close eye on. In the backline, George North can cause plenty of headaches if he manages to play the full 80 minutes without any injuries. While combinations of Owen Watkin and Hadleigh Parke is also a factor that has the potential to be trouble for an opposition.

For Italy: The reliable captain Sergio Parisse is always the one to look out for. While pivot Tommaso Allan has the opportunity to prove he can guide the Italian's attack and keep the scoreboard ticking, especially with Carlo Canna on the bench.

Head to head: Both Italy and Wales have new midfield partnership and will be interesting to see how debutant Owen Watkin and Hadleigh Parkes take on the likes of Giulio Bisegni and Tommaso Castello. The battle in the loose forwards will also be vital especially when you look at the two captain - Sergio Parisse and Tualupe Faletau.  

Recent results:

2017: Wales won 33-7, Rome
2016: Wales won 67-14, Cardiff
2015: Wales won 23-19, Cardiff
2015: Wales won 61-20, Rome
2014: Wales won 23-15, Cardiff
2013: Wales won 26-9, Rome
2012: Wales won 24-3, Cardiff
2011: Wales won 24-16, Rome
2010: Wales won 33-10, Cardiff
2009: Wales won 20-15, Rome
2008: Wales won 47-8, Cardiff

Prediction: The Italians could pull off a major upset if they manage to find their rhythm, however even with 10 modifications in the Welsh set-up the chances are very slim. Wales are just too settled and should claim the victory by 15 points.

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau (captain), 7 James Davies, 6 Justin Tipuric, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Cory Hill, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Leigh Halfpenny

Italy: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Tommaso Benvenuti, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Castello, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Maxime Mbanda, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Dean Budd, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Andrea Lovotti.    
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Tiziani Pasquali, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Giovanni Licata, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Jayden Hayward.

Date: Sunday, March 11
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 15.00 (15.00 GMT, 16.00 Italy time)
Expected weather conditions: Rain is expected, with  a high of 12°C and a low of 5°C.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gaüzère (France), Andrew Brace (Ireland)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

There are currently no matches being played
Fri, 23 March 2018
Connacht v Edinburgh 19h35 Sportsground
Dragons v Cheetahs 19h35 Rodney Parade
Glasgow Warriors v Zebre 19h35 Scotstoun
Bath v Exeter Chiefs 19h45 Recreation Ground
Sat, 24 March 2018
Sunwolves v Chiefs 04h15 Tokyo
Hurricanes v Highlanders 06h35 Wellington
Kings v Treviso 13h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors 15h00 AJ Bell Stadium
Saracens v Harlequins 15h00 London
London Irish v Gloucester 15h00 Madejski Stadium
Cardiff Blues v Ulster 15h15 Cardiff Arms Park
Stormers v Reds 15h15 Newlands
Munster v Scarlets 17h30 Thomond Park
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints 17h30 Kingston Park
Ospreys v Leinster 19h35 Liberty Stadium
Jaguares v Lions 19h40 Estadio Jose Amalfitani
Sun, 25 March 2018
Leicester Tigers v Wasps 15h00 Welford Road
Fri, 30 March 2018
Chiefs v Highlanders 06h35 Hamilton
Rebels v Hurricanes 08h45 Melbourne
Fri, 23 March 2018
Rebels v Sharks 46 | 14
Crusaders v Bulls 34 | 14
Mon, 19 March 2018
Wits v NWU-Pukke 31 | 35
CUT-Ixias v UCT-Ikeys 23 | 30
UP-Tuks v UJ 30 | 30
Shimlas v NMMU-Madibaz 28 | 22
Sun, 18 March 2018
Waratahs v Rebels 51 | 27
Sat, 17 March 2018
Jaguares v Reds 7 | 18
Wales v France 14 | 13
Lions v Sunwolves 40 | 38
England v Ireland 15 | 24
Stormers v Blues 37 | 20
Italy v Scotland 27 | 29
Brumbies v Sharks 24 | 17
Highlanders v Crusaders 25 | 17
Team P W D L Pts
Ireland 5 5 0 0 26
Wales 5 3 0 2 15
Scotland 5 3 0 2 13
France 5 2 0 3 11
England 5 2 0 3 10
Italy 5 0 0 5 1