Wales v Italy, Principality Stadium, Saturday, 2.15pm – Live on RTÉ 2
Josh Adams has lavished praise on his fellow wing Louis Rees-Zammit as the Gloucester speedster prepares for a return to Wales' starting line-up.
Rees-Zammit burst on to the Six Nations scene with four tries during Wales' title-winning campaign last season. This year, though, has proved a totally different experience, suffering an ankle knock during the warm-up against Ireland, playing in Wales' first two games and then being omitted from the match-day 23 for a Twickenham appointment with England.
The 21-year-old featured as a second-half replacement in last week's narrow loss to Grand Slam-chasing France, and he will now start against Principality Stadium opponents Italy on Saturday.
“I think his reaction to not being selected for the England game has been terrific,” said Adams, who lines up in Wales’ back three alongside Rees-Zammit and Johnny McNicholl this weekend. “He went back to his club at Gloucester and came off the bench to score a wonderful try. I think he did everything asked of him.
"He came on against France and made a great impact, and that is what you want. He had a couple of really nice touches and looked dangerous. I said at the beginning of the campaign that he is a massive weapon for us. He's only 21, which is crazy. We want and expect the best from him, and I think he's going to be a huge, huge player for Wales for many years to come."
Despite losing three Six Nations games out of four, Wales could still finish third if they see off Italy with a bonus-point and results involving England and Scotland work in their favour.
Wales captain Dan Biggar, who wins his 100th cap on Saturday, believes that last season's Six Nations champions have shown attacking glimpses despite collecting just five tries in four games, whereas they claimed 20 touchdowns last year.
“I thought we moved the ball quite well against France, England and Scotland, but we haven’t just quite got that final pass or final bit of movement,” Biggar said. “We also know that 12 months ago when we won the title, we scored the most tries we have ever scored going to a championship success.
“I know it is all about the here and now, but people have also got short memories. We scored a lot of tries and points from moving the ball 12 months ago, and we haven’t quite got it how we want it. We are frustrated with that as well. Hopefully, that is something we can really work on and produce it on Saturday.”
And Adams added: “It’s clear to see we haven’t been as ruthless in attack this year. There are a lot of nuts and bolts around it in terms of why. For whatever reason it hasn’t quite been there.
“I would like to think that in patches we have been really good and put teams under a lot of pressure. We have created some clear-cut chances as well where everyone is probably thinking ‘how did they not score that?’ These are the frustrating things for us when we look back at it.”
If Wales can click then it could help produce a carnival atmosphere in the predicted Cardiff sunshine, with the mood set by milestone men Biggar and Alun Wyn Jones. Jones returns to the starting line-up more than four months after suffering a shoulder injury that required two operations, and he will collect Wales cap number 150, creating history as the first player for any country to reach that figure.
Paying tribute to them, Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies said: “They are probably the two most professional players I have ever met on and off the field. The amount of work that they do on the pitch after training – ‘Biggs’ is always doing his kicking and is down there a while after the majority of boys have left, and Alun Wyn is always doing something.
“They thoroughly deserve the achievements they are going to get on the weekend, and I think they have both got plenty more in the tank.”
WALES: J McNicholl; L Rees-Zammit, O Watkin, U Halaholo, J Adams; D Biggar (capt), G Davies; G Thomas, D Lake, D Lewis, A Beard, A W Jones, S Davies, J Navidi, T Faletau. Replacements: B Roberts, W Jones, L Brow, W Rowlands, R Moriarty, K Hardy, C Sheedy, N Tompkins.
ITALY: Ange Capuozzo; Edoardo Padovani, Juan Ignacio Brex, Leonardo Marin, Montanna Ioane; Paolo Garbisi , 9-Callum Braley; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Pietro Ceccarelli, Marco Fuser, Federico Ruzza, Giovanni Pettinelli, Michele Lamaro (capt), Toa Halafihi. Replacements: Luca Bigi, Cherif Traore, Tiziano Pasquali, David Sisi, Niccolo Cannone, Braam Steyn, Alessandro Fusco, Marco Zanon.