Six Nations: Italy v Wales

Conor O'Shea's Azzurri welcome a Warren Gatland-less Wales to the Stadio Olimpico

Patrick Madden Sun, Feb 5
 
LIVE: Six Nations: Italy v Wales

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  • Good afternoon!

    Yesterday's start to the Six Nations was far from ideal, with a largely rudderless Ireland beaten in Edinburgh and England grinding it out against a rejuvenated France side.

    But not to worry, it's a crisp February Sunday and there's more rugby to enjoy.

    Today Conor O'Shea's Italy welcome Wales to the Stadio Olimpico, as they look to build on an autumn campaign which saw them earn a landmark victory over an admittedly far from vintage Springboks side.

    The Welsh are in Rome without their coach Warren Gatland, with the Lions boss currently plotting the downfall of the All Blacks this summer.

    England and Ireland have been almost exclusively touted as potential winners of this year's tournament - but with Wales taking on both in Cardiff you cannot rule them out for the championship.

    They'll be looking to hit the ground running today, and with the Azzurri presenting the best chance for a bonus point we might see Wales in full flight.

    We'll be bringing you all the action form the Stadio Olimpico, kick off is at 2pm.

    Come on!!!

     

  • TEAMS:

    Italy:  E Padovani (Zebre); G Bisegni (Zebre), T Benvenuti (Treviso), L McLean (Treviso), G Venditti (Zebre); C Canna (Zebre), E Gori (Treviso); A Lovotti (Zebre), O Gega (Treviso), L Cittadini (Bayonne); M Fuser (Treviso), G Biagi (Zebre); A Steyn (Treviso), M Mbanda (Zebre), S Parisse (Stade Francais, capt). Replacements: L Ghiraldini (Toulouse), S Panico (Calvisano), P Ceccarelli (Zebre), J Furno (Zebre), F Minto (Treviso), G Bronzini (Treviso), T Allan (Treviso), M Campagnaro (Exeter).

    Wales:  L Halfpenny (Toulon); G North (Northampton), J Davies (Scarlets), S Williams (Scarlets), L Williams (Scarlets); D Biggar (Ospreys), R Webb (Ospreys); N Smith (Ospreys), K Owens (Scarlets), S Lee (Scarlets); J Ball (Scarlets), A W Jones (Ospreys, captain); S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), J Tipuric (Ospreys), R Moriarty (Gloucester). Replacements: S Baldwin (Ospreys), R Evans (Scarlets), T Francis (Exeter), C Hill (Newport Gwent Dragons), J King (Ospreys), G Davies (Scarlets), S Davies (Ospreys), J Roberts (Harlequins).

  • A lot of the pre-game talk is focussing on George North, who is starting today having been dogged by numerous head injuries. His club Northampton escaped sanction before christmas after wrongly letting him play on follwing a HIA.  

    It feels like North has been around forever, and despite having already picked up 68 international caps he is still only 24. Fingers crossed he stays fit throughout the Six Nations as a fit and firing gorgeous George will be vital to the Lions' hopes in New Zealand.

  • Taking the reins for Wales in the absence of Gatland is Rob Howley, who guided them to the championship four years ago ahead of the victorious Lions tour of Australia.  

    The Welsh have been painfully blunt at times over recent years, but hopefully with backs coach Howley in charge they might open up a bit.

    That said, they have put 128 points on Italy in their last two meetings despite playing 'Warren-ball.'

  • The teams are out in Rome.
  • It's not the best day in Rome - lashing down. Will suit the Italians.
  • Big day for Conor O'Shea, who begins his first Six Nations as Italy coach. With Scotland much improved this year any victory would represent a good tournament for the Azzurri, even if they end up with the wooden spoon.

    Anthems time - two of the best.  

  • Canna has the ball in hand, and we're off!
  • 1 min: Wales tidy from the kick off and Webb feeds Biggar who fails to find touch with his clearance. Italy run a few phases in midfield but get turned over and Davies makes a half break on the left, getting Wales into the Italian half.
  • 2 min: Canna claims a Biggar garryowen but Italy are pinged for obstructing the chasing Halfpenny.

    Wales penalty outside the Italian 10-metre and Halfpenny will have a pop. It has the legs but it's not a great connection and he pushes it.

  • 3 min: Very cute from Biggar, Wales have the ball deep and he chips a kick wide to North who can't quite claim it with Canna challenging. Almost perfect. Italian scrum.

    North's taken a knock there, looks like a dead leg. He'll be alright though.

  • 4 min: The set piece and their big pack will be key to Italy's hopes today - and they make a good start, winning a scrum penalty after Wales collapse. Marker from the Azzurri.
  • 5 min: Italian lineout on the Welsh 22 and they win the ball before building a few phases in the tight. The Welsh defence is solid and they make no impression on the 22 before Gori spills it forward at the base.
  • 6 min: Better Welsh scrum - this time they win a penalty afetr the hosts collapse.
  • 7 min: Lovely quick, clean ball off the top for Wales. There's a real thrust in their attack, Davies making another half break on the left. It's moved back right and Tipuric runs a great line before he's collared. Biggar then uses the space in behind and stabs a grubber into touch.
  • 9 min: Italy split the lineout and the ball goes loose, but they manage to retain it and McLean clears.
  • 10 min: Wales build phases on the edge of the Italian 22 before Warburton spills after he tries to pick and go. The ball falls for Parisse and a roar goes up around the ground but it quickly dies as his pass is knocked forward.
  • 11 MIN: ITALY 0 WALES 0
  • 12 min: More sustained Welsh possession in the Italian half but with little forward momentum. Biggar grubbers in behind again but it won't bounce right for Liam Williams.
  • 13 min: Wales have the ball wide right with a penalty coming so Biggar switches the play with a kick right into the breadbasket of Liam Williams, but he is well tackled by Canna.
  • 15 min: Wales dominating the ball and territory and Italy are penalised for spoiling on the floor. Easy three points but Wales go for the corner instead.
  • 16 min: Wales win the lineout and try and set the maul. There's another penalty coming so again Biggar tries to kick in behind but overcooks it. Back into the corner.
  • 17 min: The Welsh maul struggles to gain any traction but when they finally start to grind their way forward Italy bring it down - just as Wales are being told to use it. Biggar goes back into the corner and Wales repeat the same process.
  • 18 min: Webb snipes off the maul but is scragged. Wales are deep inside the Italian five. Warburton is screaming for Wales to shift the ball right and Biggar's pass to Davies comes off his shin and bounces in goal where prop Lovotti is first to pounce. Italy 22.
  • 20 MIN: ITALY 0 WALES 0
  • 21 min: There's a minute or so of kick tennis as both sides hoof the ball to each other. Eventually Padovani opts to run from a North kick and he makes a good break up the left and slips it inside to Parisse. Italy up to the Welsh 22 and on the front foot - but then hooker Gega spills it forward.
  • 24 min: So close for Italy. Poor striking at the scrum from hooker Smith and the hosts win it against the head. Parisse picks and breaks and passes to Canna - excellent read from North coming inside to make the tackle and saving a certain try. It's back for Parisse and it takes half the Welsh side to haul him down a fraction short of the line. Italy try and force their way over but Wales hold it up - five metre scrum.
  • 26 min: Great shunt from Italy and they win a penalty. Parisse opts for another scrum with Wales under serious pressure.
  • 27 min: Brilliant tackle from Biggar, holding up Steyn as the flanker looks certain to go over after taking an inside ball from Parisse.
  • TRY ITALY!!!!!
  • The Italian pressure tells and Gori sneaks over after they set up a mini-maul under the posts.

    Easy conversion for Canna.

    30 MIN: ITALY 7 WALES 0

  • 31 min: Wales win lineout ball and it's clean off the top. They drag Italy one way and then look back right to North but he takes a bit of a hospital pass and is forced into touch.
  • 33 min: Very soft penalty conceded by Italy and Biggar sticks it into the corner
  • 34 min: Sustained Welsh possession in the Italy 22 and the hosts get pinged for not rolling away. There's a break in play as a few players get attended to.
  • The cart is on for secondrow Fuser but he manages to help himself off the pitch quite gingerly.
  • Halfpenny will go for the posts from the penalty and try to get Wales on the board. He makes no mistake.

    35 MIN: ITALY 7 WALES 3

  • 36 min: More herculean work from Parisse gets Italy up to the Welsh 22. Italy build the phases and Gori tries to snipe round the fringe but runs straight into Tipuric and gets dumped on his backside. Italy looking after the ball well but not making much impression on the Welsh 22.  
  • 38 min: Italy still have the ball and move it left to Steyn who makes a great carry up to the Welsh five. Brilliant defence from Wales - they could defend their line all day. Eventually Warburton locks onto it on the deck and can't be moved - penalty Wales.
  • HT: ITALY 7 WALES 3
  • The teams are back out in Rome. Change for Wales - Sam Davies replacing Biggar, who took a knock to the ribs at the end of the first half.
  • 31 min: Wales own the ball in the opening stages of the second half before Davies switches play with a kick and Italy call the mark. It's kicked to Halfpenny who sends up a huge garryown and clatters into Parisse as he tries to claim it.
  • 43 min: Wales get good lineout ball and move it right, working their way deeper into Italian territory and up to the 22 - skipper Wyn Jones making a number of good carries. Davies sees half a gap and tries to sneak through it but is scragged and Gori picks off his offload. Poor clearance from Italy and Wales have an attacking lineout.
  • 45 min: Good ball off the top for Wales and they get quick ball in the Italian 22. Hooker Gega flies in to try and tackle Wyn Jones and gets pinged for not rolling away.

    Easy kick for Halfpenny and he makes no mistake.

    46 MIN: ITALY 7 WALES 6

  • 47 min: Brief surge of excitement as Parisse - who was off the pitch - jumps infield and challenges Davies in the air. He runs onto the bouncing ball but gets called back for a knock on - he knew it as well.
  • 48 min: Big shunt from the Italian pack but but they get penalised for wheeling - Wales were under big pressure there.
  • 49 min: Halfpenny sends up another kick and again he's got Parisse to deal with in the air - this time the big number eight knocks on.
  • 50 MIN: ITALY 7 WALES 6
  • 51 min: Two new props on for Wales and they're solid enough at the scrum. The Welsh attack is a bit lateral and Moriarty spills a short, flat ball from Webb. He gets dumped onto his back by Steyn and a penalty is awarded.

    Halfpenny slots it to give Wales the lead for the first time.

    52 MIN: ITALY 7 WALES 9

  • 54 min: Solid Welsh scrum inside the Italian 10 and Scott Williams makes a good carry through the middle. Good ball retention from Wales and they suck Italy into conceding another penalty - Parisse offside as he tackles Webb at the base.

    Halfpenny nails the kick.

    55 MIN: ITALY 7 WALES 12

  • 57 min: Brilliant from Webb, sniping at a ruck in the middle of a park and breaking upfield. He slips it to Scott Williams who finds Tipuric and then Wyn Jones. Wales firmly on the front foot and red bodies descend. Webb then finishes what he started and gets the ball down after dummying. The referee checks with the TMO who says Webb grounded it short - even though replays show the ball touching the line. Hmmm. Penalty Wales.
  • 58 min: Big five-metre scrum for Wales and Italy are penalised for collapsing it. A few more of those and a penalty try is on the cards.
  • 59 min: Moriarty nurses the ball at the base of the scrum and there's another scrum penalty. Lovotto gets sent to the bin.
  • TRY WALES!!!!!!!!!!!
  • This time the ball is straight out and Webb dances down the blindside and pops to North who is held up. Wales have numbers right and use it, Sam Davies finding Scott Williams before getting snotted. Williams then steps back inside, straightens up and finds Jonathan Davies who scoots over.

    Halfpenny converts, and you imagine that will be that.

    62 MIN: ITALY 7 WALES 19

  • 63 min: Italy respond well, keeping the play in the middle of the park and earning a penalty on halfway following a high tackle. Canna kicks for a lineout on the 22.
  • 65 min: Wales have the ball deep and Halfpenny sees a ruck of space in behind and hoofs it long. Tipuric's chase is sensational and he's first there to apply the pressure. He looks more and more like the Lions' starting seven.
  • 66 min: Warburton pinches an Italian lineout and lands with a thump, earning a penalty. It's kicked back into touch and Wales maul up to the five metre before Webb moves it right.
  • TRY WALES!!!!!!!!!
  • Lovely, lovely score. Wales are under the posts and move it left, Scott Williams delaying his pass and drawing the man before passing to Jonathan Davies who takes the tackle and releases to Liam Williams who is over in the corner.  

    Another two points for Halfpenny.

    68 MIN: ITALY 7 WALES 26

  • 69 min: Wales concede a soft penalty in the middle of the park and McLean finds a good touch. Italy set the maul and have a penalty advantage after Tipuric comes in from the side. Back into the corner.
  • 71 min: Italy move infield but again the Welsh defence at close quarters is excellent and they limit the potential damage to a five-metre scrum. Great shunt form Wales and they turn it over through Warburton.
  • 74 min: Italy scrum on their 10 wide on the left and the backs run a move which sees Benvenuti released on the far side, showing his pace to get up to the Welsh 22. Wales turn it over though and look to play from deep. Davies stabs a kick through on the right and North hares after it but the ball goes out. North was walking a bit gingerly after that, might have tweaked something.
  • 76 min: Lovely break from Campagnaro who sees half a gap and steps through it and finds Benvenuti on the right but he kicks when he comes under pressure.
  • TRY WALES!!!!!!!!
  • There's gorgeous George. He's found on the right deep in Welsh territory and brushes off a tackle before surging down the right wing. There's one man on the cover and he has absolutely no chance as North steps inside and thunders over the line. Boom.

    78 MIN: ITALY 7 WALES 33

  • 80 min: Wales hammering away looking for a bonus point score and they nearly have it after Halfpenny sends a delightful kick inside off the outside of his boot which Gareth Davies is onto. Wales lose it but come under real pressure and Liam Williams is over in the corner - but replays show he just lost it and he looked to ground the ball. And that's yer lot.
  • FT: ITALY 7 WALES 33
  • Right, thanks for joining this afternoon. See you next weekend as Ireland look to bounce back against Italy.

    Cya!