As ever the fight for the 'underdog' tag is on
We are so used to seeing them written off, but as they open Round Four of the Six Nations in Rome, are Italy favourites against Wales?
Despite losing all three of their matches so far in the championship, the Azzurri‘s performances have been stirring, and they had the chance to beat France in the opening round, before making Ireland fight like hell in Round Three. They still only have one bonus point to show for their efforts, though.
Wales, on the other hand, have had their battles so far this season. Despite Welsh strike action being averted ahead of the England match, the weight of off-field issues will have been exhausting. On the field, Wales have come up short in all three of their matches so far, losing by a record margin to Scotland and twice losing at home (to Ireland and England respectively). They have scored only three tries so far. Next up is resurgent Italy in Rome.
As Tom Shanklin said on Scrum V after the weekend: “Italy look dangerous. They’re a settled side and have found a style of play that suits them with a big pack, good ball-carriers and attacking players behind.
“There’s also a lot of pressure now on Wales. Before the Six Nations we would have expected them to win in Rome but given where their confidence is and the lack of game plan means we could be going as underdogs.”
It’s a curious thing, the race to become Six Nations underdogs – it is a tag so many sides want. And Italy have had it in nearly every match they’ve ever played in their tournament history. If they are the favourites, how will they handle the psychology?
The bookmakers still have Wales as favourites, but perhaps they want the underdog tag. For Italy, losing that feels like strange new territory.
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