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Six Nations, Sport

Six Nations: Wales coach Warren Gatland won’t underestimate Italy

Wales coach Warren Gatland is set to minimise the risk of a botched Italian job by shelving his selection approach from two years ago when his team head to Rome later this week.

Gatland made nine changes the last time Wales faced Italy at Stadio Flaminio, including six up-front, where the likes of Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Adam Jones and Martyn Williams were all rested.

And it almost backfired before Gatland’s team ground out a 20-15 win after trailing at half-time.

Italy beat Wales on home soil in 2003 and 2007, so there should be no hint of complacency, even though the Azzurri suffered a 59-13 drubbing against England last time out.

Wales know a win would keep them in the RBS 6 Nations title mix, although Gatland’s hopes of perhaps naming an unchanged team from Murrayfield nine days ago could be wrecked by injury.

Centre Jonathan Davies is a fitness doubt as he battles to overcome a hamstring injury suffered when Wales beat Scotland 24-6.]

If Davies is ruled out, then Gatland might have to consider switching the versatile James Hook from fly-half, although Stephen Jones and Rhys Priestland would also be midfield options.

Wales assistant coach Neil Jenkins said: “Jon is a doubt at the minute. He is doing rehab and stuff, and we will have another look at him tomorrow.

“Hopefully he can make it. He hasn’t done a great deal with us since the Scotland game, other than rehab. We will wait and see what happens.”

Gatland might also ponder a recall for Cardiff Blues wing Leigh Halfpenny, who missed the England and Scotland games due to injury but is now back in training.

But outside of those two areas, he is unlikely to tinker with a team that won its first game in nine Tests by toppling Scotland.

Jenkins added: “We nearly come unstuck (in Rome) two years ago. It is not easy to change players, with them coming in and out.

“You see that with any sport in that a lot of sides that make changes more often than not struggle in that game, whoever they play against.

“We were lucky to come through two years ago. I think we’ve got to pick our strongest possible side. We’ve only had one win in the last nine, and it is a big game for us.

“Obviously, ‘Gats’ picks the team, but I would have thought our strongest possible side will be on the pitch in Rome.

“We know it is going to be very tough. We need another win – we want to back up what we did in Scotland, and we need to play well.”


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2 thoughts on “Six Nations: Wales coach Warren Gatland won’t underestimate Italy

  1. I think it’ll be a massive loss to Wales if they lose Jonathan Davies. How many time are Wales going to have to re-shuffle their backs because of injury? I genuinely can’t remember the last time we played the same centers two games in a row. Hopefully he’ll pull through anyway. Realistically I don’t think Stephen Jones of Rhys Priestland are option for the midfield. If Jonathan Davies is injured then Hook has to be moved across and Stephen Jones brought in.

    Posted by paulmichael357 | February 21, 2011, 11:07 pm


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