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WATCH: Wales beat Italy in Rome – Highlights & Report.

Wales equal record run of victories after overcoming Italy at the Stadio Olimpico

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Written by Oliver Green
Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

A Wales side that included 10 changes from round one secured a record-equalling 11th consecutive win with an uninspiring victory over Italy.

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.

Wales will have the opportunity to break the record that has stood for over 100 years when they play England in Cardiff.

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.

6 Nations

Scotland’s summer Test schedule finalised

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(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Scotland’s summer Test schedule has been finalised with the news that Scotland A will face England A at Leicester’s Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Sunday 27 June, before the full national team heads to Europe to face Romania on 10 July and Georgia on 17 July in Test matches.

The British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa headlines a busy July programme that will see 25 of the top 30 ranked unions in action with several hosting or being hosted for the first time since the pandemic began, including world champions South Africa, and Rugby World Cup 2019 hosts Japan.

In line with government guidance, stadiums will be operating at a reduced capacity. It is expected that 6,000 supporters will be welcomed at Welford Road, with the potential to increase these numbers if government guidelines allow in the coming weeks.

Ticket details for England A v Scotland A will be confirmed shortly.

Scotland’s schedule will be overseen by Interim Head Coach Mike Blair, who will take charge in Gregor Townsend’s stead given his involvement as Attack Coach for the British & Irish Lions’ tour to South Africa.

Kick-off times and broadcast arrangements are to be confirmed.

On the news of an A fixture, Scottish Rugby’s Director of High Performance, Jim Mallinder, said: “For me, the ability to play A team fixtures is a key area of player development and given the depth we are now able to draw on around the Scotland men’s national team, it will provide an important opportunity for those pushing for international selection.

“After seeing such a positive number of Scotland players called up for the British & Irish Lions the summer series of matches opens up our options even further for player selection.”

Source – Scotland Rugby

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6 Nations

British & Irish Lions issue Tour Update

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Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

The British & Irish Lions and SA Rugby have confirmed they are aligned on delivering the Castle Lager Lions Series in South Africa in the scheduled playing window.

The Lions Board confirmed its preference to SA Rugby on Monday evening, prior to follow-up meetings earlier today (Tuesday).

“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said Jason Leonard, chairman of The British & Irish Lions.

“We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust COVID-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan.”

Mark Alexander, president of the SA Rugby, said he would inform the Executive Council of the South African Rugby Union of the alignment.

“We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said Alexander.

“We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.

“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners.”

Alexander said the original tour schedule was subject to review because of those considerations. Should any changes be required they will be communicated as soon as possible.

Leonard added: “Every British and Irish player dreams of wearing the famous red jersey, and players from the southern hemisphere aspire to be part of a Lions series. We owe it to the current players vying for a place in both squads to ensure they can become part of Lions history.

“We are very much looking forward to taking on South Africa for what promises to be a highly-competitive Series against the reigning World Champions.”

Alexander thanked the Castle Lager Lions Series’ commercial partners as well as the British & Irish Lions and ticket holders for their patience during the extended period of uncertainty.

“As hosts and ‘owners’ of the Castle Lager Lions Series no one has been more affected or more challenged by the current circumstances than SA Rugby,” said Alexander. “However, with the support of our government and good planning we can navigate the pandemic to nonetheless create a most memorable event for players, fans and partners.”

It is not yet known whether international or cross-border travel for supporters will be possible into the country in July. Supporters who have purchased ticket-inclusive packages through Lions Rugby Travel will be notified directly via email with information on the options available.

The Lions remind supporters that all packages purchased through Lions Rugby Travel are protected by the Covid-19 guarantee*. Supporters who have booked packages with official sub agents should contact them directly. For the latest guidance on travelling to South Africa please visit the UK Foreign Office website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa or the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs website: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/a-z-list-of-countries/south-africa/

At this time, it also remains unclear whether spectators will be permitted into stadia in July and August. SA Rugby and the Lions continue to work with relevant South African Government departments to ascertain the latest guidance on COVID-19 countermeasure planning for major sporting events and will communicate any updates as soon as it is possible to do so.

In the event that spectators are not permitted to gain access to the Test matches, Lions supporters who had successfully purchased Test match tickets via the Lions ticket ballot will be refunded.

The British & Irish Lions Test match against Japan at BT Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday 26 June 2021 for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup will continue as scheduled. However, a decision on crowd size will be made nearer the time of the event and in line with the latest UK Government guidance. For more information, including ticketing enquiries, please visit:
https://www.lionsrugby.com/1888-cup-faqs/

The British & Irish Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.

*For more information please visit www.lionstour.com

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6 Nations

Ireland make multiple changes for England

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Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

The Ireland coaching group have named their final match day squad of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championships ahead of the Round 5 clash with England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

There are a number of changes to the team that started against Scotland last Sunday starting in the half-backs where Captain Johnny Sexton is joined in by Conor Murray.

Garry Ringrose is ruled out of the side through injury so Bundee Aki slots in at inside centre with Robbie Henshaw shifting to the No.13 jersey.

Jacob Stockdale returns to the team for the first time since the Autumn Nations Cup win over Scotland back in December and is named on the left wing with Keith Earls on and Hugo Keenan completing the back three.

In the front row Dave Kilcoyne starts at loosehead alongside Rob Herring at hooker and Tadhg Furlong at tighthead. 

Tadhg Beirne moves into lock to partner Iain Henderson in the absence of the injured James Ryan.

Will Connors was ruled out yesterday with a knee injury in training so Josh van der Flier comes in at openside. CJ Stander moves to 6 for his final Ireland game in Aviva Stadium and Jack Conan is named at No.8.

Speaking this week about Stander, Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton commented,

“He’s done things for the right reason. His wife and daughter are back in South Africa at the moment. They’ve been there for a few months and they went back for the last lockdown as well.

“It takes its toll, doesn’t it? He’s just taken the decision based on family reasons and we respect him for that, but he’s a big loss to Munster and Irish Rugby.

“He’s been huge for both teams over the last five, six years. Very shocked, but we wish him well and we hope that his last game in green will be one to remember.”

The replacements are Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony, Jamison Gibson Park, Billy Burns and Jordan Larmour.

The game is being televised by VIRGIN (ROI) and ITV (NI) and kicks off at 4.45pm on Saturday afternoon.

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Engalnd, 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, March 20, kick-off 4:45pm):

15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 10 caps
14. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 92 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 51 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 30 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 33 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 98 caps CAPTAIN
9. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 88 caps
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 42 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 20 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 48 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 62 caps
5. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 21 caps
6. CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 50 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 30 caps
8. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 19 caps

Replacements
16. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 10 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 108 caps
18. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 36 caps
19. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 2 caps
20. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 74 caps
21. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 9 caps
22. Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
23. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 28 caps

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