Preview & key stats: Wales v Italy (Sat)


Second row Alun Wyn Jones has amassed 149 caps for Wales and 12 for the British and Irish Lions
Venue: Principality Stadium Date: Saturday, 19 March Kick-off: 14:15 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and online from 13:45 GMT; listen on BBC Radio Wales & BBC Radio Cymru; text commentary on BBC Sport website and app.

Wales take on Italy on Saturday with only pride on the line for both teams following disappointing Six Nations.

Lock Alun Wyn Jones will become the first player to reach 150 caps for one nation, with an emphatic win expected.

Captain Dan Biggar will become the seventh Welsh player to reach 100 caps.

The fly-half believes Wales were the better team in losing last week’s contest against Grand Slam-chasing France and they next face a side whom they have beaten in each of the past 16 meetings.

Italy – who once again will finish bottom of the standings – are searching for their first Six Nations win since 2015 to end a miserable run of 36 defeats in the tournament.

Six Nations standings. France lead Ireland by two points after four games with England and Scotland in third and fourth, Wales fifth and Italy last

Team news

Biggar continues to lead the team despite the return of Wales’ long-term captain, with Jones replacing Will Rowlands at lock in one of seven changes.

Johnny McNicholl, Louis Rees-Zammit, Willis Halaholo and Gareth Davies are recalled in the backline, while Dewi Lake and Dillon Lewis are selected up front.

Liam Williams, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Tomos Williams, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis are dropped from the match-day squad.

Italy make two changes to the side beaten by Scotland, with full-back Ange Capuozzo making his first start after scoring twice from the bench last weekend.

He replaces Pierre Bruno, with Edoardo Padovani switching to the wing, while Marco Fuser is preferred in the second row to Niccolo Cannone, who drops to the bench.

The BBC's Six Nations final round coverage starts with Wales v Italy on BBC One
Matches take place on Saturday, 19 March

Commentator’s notes

Eddie Butler: “Of all the predictions this is the least demanding: Wales will win. Wales will play with purpose and width and find freedom at last.

“But there’s something about Italy that stirs the soul – their youth, their lack of fear, their desire to stay in the Six Nations; Ange Capuozzo, dancing, gliding, absolute proof that there is room for even the slenderest of shapes in international rugby.

“Wales 56 Italy 34.”

View from both camps

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac: “At the start of the competition we had probably written it off due to the absentees but, certainly, we’ve grown throughout the competition, which has been really, really pleasing.

“We are building depth in a number of areas which is really important going through to the World Cup next year.

“Clearly, we want to win every Test match when we take to the field, and we weren’t happy with round one (against Ireland), but steadily we’ve built and there have been a lot of positives to come out of the last three matches.”

Italy head coach Kieran Crowley: “We will face a team that has recovered important players and who will want to react.

“We want to close the tournament in the best possible way by continuing the game shown in several moments of the match against Scotland.”

Line-ups

Wales: 15-McNicholl, 14-Rees-Zammit, 13- Watkin, 12-Halaholo, 11-Adams, 10-Biggar (capt), 9-G Davies; 1-G Thomas, 2-Lake, 3-Lewis, 4-Beard, 5-A W Jones, 6-S Davies, 7-Navidi, 8-Faletau

Replacements: 16-Roberts, 17-W Jones, 18-Brown, 19-Rowlands, 20-Moriarty, 21-Hardy, 22-Sheedy, 23-Tompkins

Italy: 15-Capuozzo, 14-Padovani, 13-Brex, 12-Marin, 11-Ioane, 10-Garbisi, 9-Braley; 1-Fischetti, 2-Nicotera, 3-Ceccarelli, 4-Fuser, 5-Ruzza, 6-Pettinelli, 7-Lamaro (capt), 8-Halafihi

Replacements: 16-Bigi, 17-Traore, 18-Pasquali, 19-Sisi, 20-Cannone, 21-Steyn, 22-Fusco, 23-Zanon

Italy winger Monty Ioane takes on Scotland captain Stuart Hogg during Italy's defeat in Rome in round four

Match facts

Head-to-head

  • Wales have won their last 16 games against Italy in all competitions, triumphing in seven of those encounters by 35 points or more
  • They have never lost at home to Italy in the Six Nations. Their two defeats came away from home in 2003 and 2007
  • The solitary Six Nations draw between these nations did come in Cardiff in 2006

Wales

  • Wales’ defeat versus France was just a second in 12 home matches in the Six Nations
  • They have scored just five tries so far, the lowest tally of any nation other than Italy (four)
  • Wales could lose consecutive home matches in this championship for the first time in 15 years. In 2006 they were defeated in their final fixture versus France and then lost the 2007 opener against Ireland

Italy

  • Italy have only won 12 Six Nations matches since they joined the tournament in 2000
  • They are currently on a record 36-match losing run in the championship (including the Five Nations)
  • Italy’s last win away from home in the Six Nations came in Scotland in 2015

Match officials

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)

Touch judges: Matthew Carley (England) & Tual Trainini (France)

TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)



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