An almost unrecognisable team from a week ago relied heavily on the kicking prowess of Dan Biggar, who racked up four penalties and a conversion as the Welsh stumbled to a 26-15 victory.
Back row pair Thomas Young and Aaron Wainwright, scrum-half Aled Davies and winger Jonah Holmes were all making Six Nations debuts, while centre Jonathan Davies captained his country for the first time.
Josh Adams and Owen Watkin scored second-half tries to add to Biggar’s four penalties before the interval.
Italy stayed in touch thanks to a Braam Steyn try and a Tommaso Allan penalty.
Edoardo Padovani then added to his try against Scotland by crossing the whitewash with just over five minutes to go, in what proved to be a mere consolation.
The Italians set a record of their own with defeat; they have now lost the most matches in the tournament’s history. (19).
There were very few convincing performances from the players brought in by Wales head coach Warren Gatland, in a game he described as ‘a lesson in how to win ugly’.
That being said, Wasps flanker Young was industrious if not glamourous on his Six Nations debut and scrum-half Davies showed glimpses of the threat he can be around the breakdown.
It was one of the players who survived Gatland’s rotation of the squad who was most impressive though. Josh Navidi put in a man of the match performance from number eight after he was switched from flanker for this game.
How the action unfolded
With less than a minute on the clock, Italy gifted the inexperienced Welsh side a confidence booster, conceding a penalty which Biggar slotted with ease.
This set the tone for the half, with Wales enjoying the majority of the ball, and Biggar punishing the Italian ill-discipline from the tee.
Despite this, it was Italy who recorded the first try of the game just before half-time when Steyn powered over the line from five metres out.
The try stemmed from a miscued kick from Adams, and a bold call from Italy captain Sergio Parisse to kick for the corner instead of the posts.
After the conversion, Wales led by just five points at the break, which will have infuriated Gatland after his side had been so in control.
Wales started the second half in the same fashion as they finished the first, conceding three more points after more poor discipline.
With Wales’ young side struggling for answers to Italy’s dogged defence, Gatland sent on squad skipper Alun Wyn Jones to steady the ship.
Biggar was unable to replicate his first half kicking form as he missed two penalties in a matter of minutes as Wales looked as lethargic as ever in attack.
It wasn’t until a burst from number nine Davies and fullback Liam Williams slipping a couple of tackles that Wales showed any signs of penetration. Williams broke into the 22 and offloaded to Adams who touched down for only his second ever international try.
Wales continued to improve as more experience was introduced from the bench in Gareth Anscombe, with Davies seeing a try ruled out for a knock-on after a clever chip. Anscombe then repeated the feat with a chip of his own, which Watkins dived on to score his first try for Wales.
Italy fly-half Allan then beat the Welsh defence to set up Padovani in the corner as the home side refused to roll over. Just moments before Wales had another try disallowed after a forward pass; yet another occasion where they failed to be as clinical as last week.
The deficit proved too much for Italy to recover however, and Wales finished the game as 26-15 winners.
It was far from a vintage performance from Wales, who will point to the number of changes made by Gatland as a reason for the drop in quality from round one.
If Wales want to break the record set in 1910 by beating England in two weeks’ time, they will require a much sharper display than they produced in Rome.
As for Italy, they can hold their heads high after a battling performance and some good rugby. However, they will need to improve on their discipline for two weeks, as Ireland will not be as forgiving as Wales indivertibly were today.
Wales Dealt Six Nations Double-Blow
Wales’ Six Nations title defence has been dealt a massive blow already with two stars facing surgery to fix injuries picked up on international duty
Davies, a key member of the Welsh squad for the past number of seasons sustained a knee injury during Wales’ recent Rugby World Cup campaign, and Scarlets have announced that he will undergo surgery on the injury.
The recovery time for the for the centre is set to be six months, meaning he will miss the entire Six Nations tournament in what could be a critical blow as they look to defend their title. While it also means that he could potentially miss the entire club season for Scarlets.
As for Patchell, things aren’t as severe as Davies, but the fly-half is still set to miss the start of the Six Nations with a shoulder injury, which he too will have surgery on.
He is expected to miss between 12-16 weeks due to the injury in what is a cruel blow for a player that has suffered with injury previously, but had shown some brilliant form in recent times.
It is a far from ideal start to life at the helm for new head coach Wayne Pivac as he heads into his first tournament with the team.
As well as these injuries there are also further concerns regarding the likes of stars Liam Williams and Josh Navidi, who are both currently sidelined through injury, with the former looking likely to miss some part of the Six Nations.
Wales are looking to bounce-back during the tournament following a fourth-place finish at the World Cup, with all players hoping to impress Warren Gatland’s successor.
Munster Star in Six Nations Fitness Race
Munster have confirmed that one of their key men is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines which could put his Six Nations spot in doubt
Munster fly-half Joey Carbery is set for yet another spell in the sidelines according to head coach Johann van Graan due to injury.
Van Graan confirmed that Carbery is still suffering from an ankle injury which he sustained during Ireland’s Rugby World Cup warm-up game against Italy and is not able to put a return date for his comeback due to the nature of the injury.
“He is going to be out for some time. We got to make sure he gets his strength back and we get that ankle fully functional. From Joey’s point of view, obviously, he wants to play but his body is not right. Because of the type of injury he is definitely not going to be back in the next few weeks, I can tell you that,” he said on Carbery.
The out-half was selected ahead of Leinster’s Ross Byrne in Ireland’s World Cup squad despite carrying the injury. However, it was reiterated throughout the tournament that he had fully recovered, which now appears to be untrue.
His head coach also told reporters that the 23-year-old will not undergo surgery on the injury. When asked about the possibility of Carbery playing before Christmas van Graan admitted he is hopeful but he cannot be sure right now.
“I hope so. At this stage it is very difficult for the medical team to determine that. Because he has had it for quite a while the most important thing now is Joey’s health. He is a Munster player. He is under my watch now so we have got to look after him. He is very important for the national team, I believe, for the future of Irish rugby,” he added.
It is a massive blow for the Munster player who only moved from Leinster ahead of last season, and after starting brightly in the red jersey he picked up a hamstring injury that left him out for large portions of the season.
The fear for Carbery now however is that due to the nature of the injury and the inability to place a return date, he could face a race to be fit for Ireland’s Six Nations campaign at the start of February next year. Carbery will hopefully be back in action and back to match fitness by then as he will want the chance to impress new head coach Andy Farrell during his first tournament at the helm.
Japan Could Receive Six Nations Invitation
Following their incredible performances during this year’s Rugby World Cup it appears as though hosts Japan could be set for inclusion in one of the biggest international tournaments according to reports
The report by Martin Samuel claims that the World Cup host nation, who went all the way to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, are to “receive a shock invitation” to European rugby’s elite international competition.
It was previously thought that a move to the Rugby Championship would make more sense and that it was on the cards as the Southern Hemisphere nations were impressed by the brand of rugby that Japan played.
However, it appears as though the tournament organisers are hesitant to bring them into the championship straight away, and are looking to include them within the next four or five years. Which would see them join come the end of the next World Cup cycle and see them miss out on some valuable development time ahead of the tournament.
The report is clear that although formal talks between the Brave Blossoms and the Six Nations are yet to take place that World Rugby have been made aware that leading figures within the European organisation are very interested in the prospect.
It would be a brilliant opportunity for the Japanese as they look to expand interest in the sport within the country and are in a prime position to do so with interest at an all time high following the success of the tournament in the Land of the Rising Sun.
They have earned respect especially within Europe following wins over Six Nations side’s Scotland and Ireland during the group stages of the World Cup with Japan now sitting ahead of the former in 8th position in the World Rugby rankings due to their performances.
Japan were among several tier two nations backing the making of a Nations Championship which would have allowed the likes of Fiji and themselves compete against the best nations around on an annual basis and with these developments it will raise further questions as to why the competition isn’t being developed.
We will have to wait and see how things progress over the coming weeks and months but it seems as though Japan are in with a bigger chance than ever before in being added to one of the biggest international tournaments on the planet.
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