By Alan Dymock at the Millennium Stadium
The match in 30 seconds
Wales haven’t won at home in a Six Nations opener since 2005, and they almost undid themselves against a frantic Italy, but had just enough to see them off at 23-15.
A fine line from Jamie Roberts led to a bursting break and a try for Scott Williams, which looked to be a defining moment before Italy got their own score as Michele Campagnaro dribbled his way to a try early in the second half and then pulses were sent racing as the same player intercepted a wayward Leigh Halfpenny pass to scuttle in for another later on. The game had started with an Alex Cuthbert try from calamitous defending which meant he could tootle onto a missed grubber to score and Wales had a lot of squandered possession, but in the end it was Leigh Halfpenny’s boot that ensured the Millennium Stadium was just happy enough, after he slotted five kicks.
Wales – Tries: Cuthbert, S Williams. Cons: Halfpenny 2. Pens: Halfpenny 3.
Italy – Tries: Campagnaro 2. Cons: Allan Pens: Allan
– On his Six Nation debut, Campagnaro scored twice, ran for 98m and won the Man of the Match.
– Italy played the most-capped pack of all time, but succumbed to Wales, losing three of their own scrums and their front-row were penalised five times. They also had a 57% success rate at their own scrum.
– However, Warren Gatland said: “I thought the scrum was iffy,” for Wales as well. He also said: “We know we get stronger as the tournament goes on.”
– Jamie Roberts mentioned Wales kicked away too much ball in the game immediately after the match, with them kicking ball away 37 times throughout the game.
– Wales beat 16 defenders and made six clean breaks, but only scored twice.
– Sergio Parisse carried 21 times – more than any other player.
– Alessandro Zanni broke his nose, Ghiraldini damaged his hamstring and Luke Charteris has a tight hamstring and Cuthbert has a tight groin. Ghiraldini is the only serious doubt.
– Wales will not have scared anyone with this performance and need to have more of a cutting edge against Ireland. The few good lines they cut saw them beyond Italy. Drifting across the pitch helps no one.
– When Wales kick well they have chasers who can scare anyone. But they need to stop finding the other team’s full-back with their clearances.
– Italy have to keep going and hope that Tomasso Allan has the ability to grow and manage a game. They hung in there until the end against Wales but need to dictate the game pace in order to win.
– Gatland said of the upcoming Ireland game: “I’d be pretty pissed off if next week is built up as a grudge match. We’ve moved on. Brian (O’Driscoll) has moved on. It’s two countries coming together, 46 players.”
RW’s proposed Wales XV to play Ireland:
Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Scott Williams, Jamie Roberts, George North; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Andrew Coombs, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau.
This team needs to stick together and out-work Ireland. Roberts stays, but only as Jonathan Davies shouldn’t be flung into action right away after returning from injury. Warburton and Coombs will add a bit more heft at the breakdown.
RW’s proposed Italy XV to play France:
Luke McLean; Angelo Esposito, Michele Campagnaro, Alberto Sgarbi, Leonardo Sarto; Tommaso Allan, Edoardo Gori; Lorenzo Cittadini, Davide Giazzon, Martin Castrogiovanni, Quintin Geldenhuys, Marco Bortolami, Alessandro Zanni, Josh Furno, Sergio Parisse.
Looks like an almost identical team – with as many injuries as Italy have there’s not much choice – but Cittadini comes in because of his experience and Furno is named becase he offers more oomph than a noticeably slowed Mauro Bergamasco. They’ll need to slug away for 80 minutes to beat France.