Wales coach Wayne Pivac not looking past Italy to Grand Slam possibility

‘We have got to get on top of this Italian side before you see any of that sort of razzle-dazzle’

Gareth Davies comes in for the injured Kieran Hardy in the Wales side for Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Italy in Rome. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

Gareth Davies comes in for the injured Kieran Hardy in the Wales side for Saturday’s Six Nations clash with Italy in Rome. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

 

Wayne Pivac says that Wales will not be getting ahead of themselves when his players face the penultimate test of a possible Grand Slam season.

The form-book suggests Wales should encounter few problems against Italy in Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations clash.

They have beaten the Azzurri in 15 successive Tests, while it is six years since Italy won a Six Nations game against any opponent.

With France looming in a possible Grand Slam showdown next week, it would be easy for Wales to take a collective eye off the ball at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico this weekend but head coach Pivac is having none of it.

He has made just two changes, with scrumhalf Gareth Davies taking over from his injured Scarlets colleague Kieran Hardy, and lock Cory Hill starting instead of Adam Beard.

“There are two very important games to go, and it is about getting results,” Pivac said. “Don’t expect us to be throwing it around willy-nilly.

“We have got a job to do, and we have got to get on top of this Italian side before you see any of that sort of razzle-dazzle.”

Victory over Italy would tighten Wales’ grip on the Six Nations title race following their Triple Crown-clinching success against England last time out, and also leave them one win away from achieving a second Grand Slam in three seasons.

But Pivac added: “What the England game has done is put us in a great position, but we don’t want to undo the good work that has been done in the first three matches.

“For us, it is about the performance, and we are not overly happy with the full 80 minutes yet.

“We are doing some things very well in games, and I think most people would agree that we are improving in different areas, but we have still got a long way to go.

“This team is building a bit of momentum, and we want to stay with that momentum and probably reward the players that have done the bulk of it so far.

“It is about us maintaining the momentum that is building, and the confidence that comes with that.

“I think a lot of changes at this point in time, we wouldn’t want to slow that momentum down. We think this is the best way to tackle this game.”

Hardy suffered a hamstring injury during the England game after earlier scoring a try in Wales’ 40-24 triumph, while Hill impressed with a try-scoring contribution after going on as a replacement.

Changes on the bench include places for Cardiff Blues prop Rhys Carre and Scarlets lock Jake Ball, who will win his 50th cap if he goes on at Stadio Olimpico.

Carre replaces Rhodri Jones, who has been released from the Wales squad after suffering a calf muscle injury in training.

Once the Six Nations is done and dusted, thoughts will turn to the British and Irish Lions’ summer series against South Africa, although no decision has yet been announced if it will take place, and if it does, whether in South Africa as planned or on home soil, given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Asked for his Lions view, Pivac said: “In terms of the Lions, wearing a Welsh hat or any hat, it’s such a magnificent event when those tours go ahead.

“Having been lucky enough to see some of the matches in New Zealand in 2017, it’s great for the game.

“At a time when we are desperate to see big sporting events, it would be a shame if something didn’t happen.

“Look, from my point of view, anything is better than nothing. A full Lions tour with crowds is the ultimate, but as we are finding now, still representing your country or a team like the Lions without crowds is still a fantastic honour and something that everyone wants to try and achieve.”

WALES (v Italy, Saturday, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, kick-off 3.15pm/2.15pm Irish time): Liam Williams (Scarlets); L Rees-Zammit (Gloucester), G North (Ospreys), J Davies (Scarlets), J Adams (Cardiff Blues); D Biggar (Northampton), G Davies (Scarlets); W Jones (Scarlets), K Owens (Scarlets), T Francis (Exeter); C Hill (Cardiff Blues), A W Jones (Ospreys, capt); J Navidi (Cardiff Blues), J Tipuric (Ospreys), T Faletau (Bath).

Replacements: E Dee (Dragons), R Carre (Cardiff Blues), L Brown (Dragons), J Ball (Scarlets), A Wainwright (Dragons), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues), C Sheedy (Bristol), W Halaholo (Cardiff Blues).

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