Italy v Wales: Visitors to continue Six Nations title challenge with routine win
Wales produced a dramatic comeback in France to start their Six Nations campaign with a win and Simon Mail previews their second fixture in Italy...
"Wales have unsurprisingly dominated this fixture winning the last 12 clashes against Italy. Their sole defeat came in 2007 in Rome although with the hosts' wretched form and Wales' winning streak it is impossible to envisage a repeat this weekend."
Italy v Wales
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Fortune favours Wales in Paris
Wales are up and running in the Six Nations although Warren Gatland's side did it the hard way after their dramatic 24-19 win in France. It looked as if Wales were heading for defeat in Paris after trailing 16-0 at half-time but the visitors recovered, thanks partly to France's self-destruction, to edge to victory.
It was a ragged performance at times from Wales though they did improve in the second half. George North scored two tries although the winger was handed gifts after huge errors by Yoann Huget and Sebastien Vahaamahina. There is no doubt Wales were fortunate but every team that goes on to win the Six Nations needs an element of luck to go in their favour.
Wales have now put themselves in a promising position to challenge for the Six Nations title after their opening victory. It is so difficult to claim away wins in such a competitive tournament and with home games against England and Ireland to come they have a favourable set of fixtures. Wales' latest win made it ten successive victories and this momentum helped get them over the line in France.
Gatland has opted to make ten changes to the side which won in Paris with centre Jonathan Davies handed the captaincy for the first time as Alun Wyn Jones starts the match on the bench. Jonah Holmes, flankers Thomas Young and Aaron Wainwright and scrum-half Aled Davies all make their first starts in the Six Nations.
Italy's losing run continues
Italy's wait for a victory in the competition goes on after their 18th successive defeat in the competition. Italy lost 33-20 to Scotland at Murrayfield and in reality this scoreline flattered them. The hosts were in complete control before a late yellow card helped Italy score three tries in the last ten minutes.
Conor O'Shea makes two changes to the side beaten in Scotland. Edoardo Padovani scored from off the bench last weekend and he is rewarded with promotion to the backline in place of Tommaso Castello. Padovani's recall means Michele Campagnaro reverts back to outside centre. Nicola Quaglio also comes into the front row with Andrea Lovotti sidelined due to the flu.
Gatland's side should have few problems
Wales have unsurprisingly dominated this fixture winning the last 12 clashes against Italy. Their sole defeat came in 2007 in Rome although with the hosts' wretched form and Wales' winning streak it is impossible to envisage a repeat this weekend. Italy just have not been able to compete with their opponents in the competition and Wales should win with something to spare.
The handicap mark is pitched at 18 points and this looks a likely outcome even for a much-changed Wales. On their last visit to Italy, Wales won 33-7 and their last three games against them have seen a winning margin of at least 24 points. Three of the last four clashes have seen Wales pass this weekend's handicap mark and it looks worth siding with them to achieve this once again.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
P/L 2018-19 season