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Preview: Much changed Welsh visit Rome in Round 2 of the Six Nations

Preview & Verdict.

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Written by Oliver Green
Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Wales have named a team for their trip to Rome on Saturday that includes 10 changes from last week’s stunning comeback victory over France.

Coach Warren Gatland made the same number of changes for the match against Italy last year, which saw Wales run out as 38-14 winners.

They take on an Italian side that will be looking to build on a strong finish against Scotland at Murrayfield last week.

Despite a 33-20 loss, Italy will take confidence from the fact they were able to score three tries and were close to a fourth in the final moments.

Wales

Among the 10 players Gatland has brought in for this game, four will be making their 6 Nations debuts. Flankers Thomas Young and Aaron Wainwright, scrum-half Aled Davies, and wing Jonah Holmes will all be making their first appearances in the tournament.

Second-row Alun Wyn Jones has been dropped to the bench, and will hand captaincy duties over to centre Jonathan Davies, who will be leading his country for the first time.

Josh Navidi retains his place in the back-row, but switches to number eight, with lock Adam Beard the only other forward surviving from 24-19 win in Paris.

Nicky Smith, Elliot Dee and Samson Lee form a new-look front row, with Jake Ball joining Beard in second-row.

Dan Biggar starts at fly-half, and Owen Watkin will join skipper Davies in the centres.

George North, who scored twice against the French, has dropped to the bench as he nurses a shoulder injury that has limited his involvement in Wales’ training in Nice this week. He is replaced by debutant Holmes.

Josh Adams and Liam Williams, who also started last week, complete the back three.

Gatland, who was criticised last year for the number of changes he made against Italy, has remained unfazed amid more concern about his team.

“I’ve never been a person who has worried about external influences,” said Gatland.

“People can say, write or imply whatever they like.”

“It doesn’t change the fact that we’ve been put into a role to make what we think are the best decisions.”

“It’s a challenge this year, making changes. Guys have got to go out there and prove themselves.”

Italy

Italy have made just two changes from the side that lost at Murrayfield, with Tommaso Castello and Andrea Lovotti dropping out.

Wing Edoardo Padovani starts in place of Castello, meaning Wasps back Michele Campagnaro switches to the centres.

Nicola Quaglio starts at prop ahead of Lovotti.

Captain Sergio Parisse will add to his record 66 appearances in the Championship; he overtook Brian O’Driscoll last week.

Following the defeat to Scotland, Parisse was keen to highlight his sides ability when they are possession, even if they do struggle defensively.

“If we had the possession we are dangerous; we can score tries,” Parisse said.  

“I think Scotland deserved the win; they dominated the game, had a lot of possession – more than us – so of course the last ten minutes is a good base to work on for the game next week against Wales.”

Meanwhile Padovani, who scored the second of Italy’s tries last week after coming on as a substitute, has called for his side to continue their discipline against Wales.

“Well, we will have to first improve the performance and keep the discipline under control, which went well with Scotland,” he said.

“Obviously you will need to play a lot more in their half of the field and express a greater volume of play, controlling more possession and above all, as mentioned, managing to be more precise in our performance: especially inside the 22 metres and in the decisive stages of the match.

“Then we need to show ourselves in contact and in the one-on-one, both in attack and defence.”

Verdict

It is hard to see how Italy will beat Wales on Saturday, despite the wholesale changes Warren Gatland has made. He made the same number of changes last year and Wales won comfortably 38-14.

He is one of the best coaches in the world and it would be foolish to doubt his decision making at this level. The players coming in, though inexperienced, have more than enough ability to overcome the Italians.

It will be interesting to see how the cope without influential captain Alun Wyn Jones, but Jonathan Davies is a capable stand in.

Italy will be hoping that star man Sergio Parisse will be able to rattle the cages of the two inexperienced Wales flankers, who will have to be at their best to keep the marauding number eight quiet.

If Parisse can secure Italy enough ball early on, they will hope they can recreate their flowing attacking rugby from the last 10 minutes in Scotland.

If the young Welsh side then begins to panic, then this game will be far from a foregone conclusion.

Despite this, Wales still have a strong bench, which will be beneficial should this game be closer than Gatland would prefer entering the second half.

Italy are always a stern test, regardless of their finishing position each year in the Six Nations, but the match in Rome may just be another one of their ‘nearly’ moments.


6 Nations

Ireland’s TikTok Women’s Six Nations Home Games To Be Played At Musgrave Park

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Ireland’s home matches in the 2023 TikTok Women’s Six Nations will be played at Musgrave Park.

The Cork venue has been the home of the Ireland U20s since 2019 and has become a real fortress in recent seasons, with Ireland Women also enjoying huge support there when they defeated Italy at Musgrave Park in last year’s Six Nations.

Greg McWilliams‘ side open their 2023 Championship against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, 25th March (2.15pm) before welcoming France to Cork in Round 2 on Saturday, 1st April (3.15pm). After a rest weekend, Ireland will be on the road again, going head-to-head with Italy in Parma on Saturday, 15th April (4.45pm).

World Cup finalists England will visit Musgrave Park in Round 4 on Saturday, 22nd April (2.15pm) and the Championship will conclude with a trip to Edinburgh to take on Scotland at the DAM Health Stadium on Saturday, 29th April (7.30pm).

“We received huge home support during last year’s Six Nations and we’re excited to make Cork our home base for the 2023 Championship,” McWilliams said. “We enjoyed a good day out against Italy last year, with the people of Cork coming out to support the team and we will be hoping for more of the same in 2023, as two of the best teams in women’s rugby come to visit.”

Ticket details for Ireland’s home matches at Musgrave Park will be announced in due course.

TikTok Women’s Six Nations Fixtures 2023:

  • Wales v Ireland, Saturday 25 March, Cardiff Arms Park, 2.15pm
  • Ireland v France, Saturday 1 April, Musgrave Park, 3.15pm
  • Italy v Ireland, Saturday 15 April, Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, 4.45pm
  • Ireland v England, Saturday 22 April, Musgrave Park, 2.15pm
  • Scotland v Ireland, Saturday 29 April, DAM Health Stadium, 7.30pm.

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Leading Rugby Stakeholders Unite To Consider Future Of Rugby

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Rugby’s major stakeholders have united to consider the short and long-term insights and priorities for ensuring the sport is a relevant, accessible and attractive sport for all as it grows over the next decade.

The World Rugby Shape of the Game conference, hosted in London, gathered leading coaching, playing, officiating, medical and event owner minds to consider how to build a better game for all, focusing on safety and spectacle. Underpinning that mission is the ongoing prioritisation of player welfare, while fostering an environment that is simpler, more accessible and more attractive.

It will be followed by similar conferences on the elite women’s 15s and community games as the sport looks to growth opportunities over the next decade. The process will also consider fan views and general sport and entertainment considerations to create a holistic approach to the future of the sport.

Over two days, delegates considered the global welfare landscape, including reinforcing the data regarding the relative safety of the community and age-grade game, global playing trends and the role of match officials, the narrative around the sport with all participants focused on the bigger picture.

The conference identified key areas for further exploration:

• Focus on the fan: Insights from fans and broadcasters to inform the longer-term development of the sport as an entertainment product

• Speed up the game: Focus on interventions and innovations to reduce stoppages, increase continuity and the rhythm of the game

• Support match officials: Provide them with the tools to perform their role to their best ability, consider TMO intervention reductions

• Underpin with player welfare: Continue to implement evidence-based strategies to mitigate head injuries and overall injuries in the sport

• Change the narrative: The community game is the lifeblood of the sport, the risk of injury is much less than that of the elite game, focus on the benefits while managing the risks

World Rugby will take away the considerations and insights for further exploration to prioritise areas that can be implemented in the short term without changing law ahead of Rugby World Cup 2023.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said:

“As a sport, a movement and a family, we must always challenge ourselves to be better. That means taking time to consider what fans and players want the future of our sport to be, a future where more people want to play and support the game, where injury risk is reducing and where all involved in the game have their say.

“This conference was the first step towards a reimagination of our sport. The full and frank contributions from a wide spectrum of disciplines gives us plenty to consider and to move forward with through our structures. I would like to thank all participants for taking time out at a busy time to unite, collaborate and consider our future.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

England side to face Springboks

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England host the Springboks at Twickenham Stadium in their final Autumn Nations Series game on Saturday 26 November (5.30pm KO).

Manu Tuilagi will make his 50th appearance for England at outside centre, having made his debut for England against Wales in August 2011. Owen Farrell will again captain the side at inside centre.

Marcus Smith is at fly half and Jack van Poortvliet is at scrum half. Tommy Freeman comes in at right wing, Jonny May is at left wing and Freddie Steward is full back.

Jamie George (hooker) and Mako Vunipola join fellow prop Kyle Sinckler in two changes to the starting front row. Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill stay at lock. Alex Coles comes in at flanker with Tom Curry, while Billy Vunipola is No.8.

Last weekend’s double-try scorer Will Stuart is named as a finisher along with Luke Cowan-Dickie, David Ribbans, Sam Simmonds, Ben Youngs, Henry Slade and vice-captains Ellis Genge and Jack Nowell.

“This is our last game of the autumn and our chance to continue building on the improvements we have made throughout the matches,” said Jones. “We have made steady progress from game-to-game, culminating in a pulsating draw against New Zealand.

“Now we have the chance to test ourselves against the might of the world champions. We’re going out there to light the crowd up. The support at Twickenham was outstanding last week and we want to work hard on the pitch to make sure we have another atmosphere like that again on Saturday.”

Squad

Starters

15. Freddie Steward

14. Tommy Freeman

13. Manu Tuilagi

12. Owen Farrell (C)

11. Jonny May

10. Marcus Smith

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Mako Vunipola

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Jonny Hill

6. Alex Coles

7. Tom Curry

8. Billy Vunipola

Finishers

16. Luke Cowan-Dickie

17. Ellis Genge

18. Will Stuart

19. David Ribbans

20. Sam Simmonds

21. Ben Youngs

22. Henry Slade

23. Jack Nowell


Images & Content from England Rugby
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