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Six Nations, Sport

Six Nations: Lee Byrne eager for Wales to beat Italy in Rome

Six Nations, Wales, Italy, Lee Byrne, rugby, rugby union, Rome

Lee Byrne knows the win against Scotland will count for nothing if Wales don't go on to beat Italy

Lee Byrne believes Wales’ Murrayfield victory over Scotland will be meaningless unless they back it up with a second successive RBS 6 Nations away win on Saturday.

Wales play Italy in Rome knowing victory would keep them among the title contenders.

Watch Richard Morgan’s report on the team announcement for the Italy match

Ireland at home, and then France in Paris, are on Wales’ Six Nations agenda next month, but all routes currently lead to Stadio Flaminio.

That victory in Scotland won’t mean anything if we don’t go on and get another win in Rome,” said Byrne.

“We have come unstuck against Italy before, and we must definitely have our game heads on.

“It’s all about learning the lessons of the past and realising that Italy are improving year on year.

“They are a force at home. It’s like a club ground the way the spectators are very close to you. It is smaller than most other international arenas, and the atmosphere is quite intimidating.

“They do raise their game and get the most out of their players. Yes, they had a heavy defeat against England, but on the back of that defeat they will be looking to put things right.

“I don’t think the beating they suffered at Twickenham (Italy lost 59-13) will help us. Their match with Ireland in Rome, when they lost by two points, was more of a reflection.”

Byrne claims the effect of that 24-6 Edinburgh success cannot be underestimated.

He added: “It reminded me of two years ago up there when we dominated the first-half. We now know we are still capable of playing that type of rugby.

“If we can repeat that sort of performance in Rome then Italy will find it difficult to live with us.

“There is more of a spring in the step now we’ve got the win we had been searching for.

“We had been trying so hard to get it and put things right, and now we have, everybody is more relaxed.”

Wales flew to the Italian capital today with flanker Sam Warburton highlighting the threat posed by Azzurri captain Sergio Parisse.

The Stade Francais number eight played in Italy’s 2007 winning team against Wales, and delivered a man-of-the-match display when they lost narrowly two years ago.

Warburton said: “We’ve got to try to keep him quiet.

“He is not a ‘crasher’ type of player, he’s got nice hands and brings a lot of players into the game. He’s a great all-round player, one of the best in the world in my opinion.

“If we stop Parisse, it will be a big factor in stopping Italy.

“When he does something exceptional in a game it lifts the Italians. They all look up to him, so if you stop him playing you can stop Italy from getting any momentum.”

Former Wales captain Gwyn Jones, meanwhile, is predicting a comfortable away victory in Warren Gatland’s 35th Test as coach, which equals the Wales record held by Alan Davies.

“The Italians have proven to be difficult opponents for Wales in recent years,” Jones told the Western Mail.

“But before the first kick-off, you would struggle to find room for more than a handful of Nick Mallet’s men in a combined Wales-Italy XV.

“Let’s hope it remains like that, and I am confidently predicting a comfortable Welsh victory with a margin of at least two scores.”


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