herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Indifference as great a threat as Italy

Wales v Italy, The Millennium Stadium, tomorrow KO 2.30 (RTé2/BBC1)

At the moment, coach Warren Gatland is looking around for the type of leaders that make Ireland such a difficult obstacle to negotiate.

The recovery from injury of captain Ryan Jones, prop Gethin Jenkins and scrum-half Mike Phillips will go part of the way towards fixing this problem.

Everything else has been overshadowed, however, by the debut of Tom Prydie, who will become the youngest player, at 18 years and 27 days, to play for Wales, Gatland admitting he "is the fastest player in the squad".

This is one of those no-win scenarios for Wales: win with style and the begrudgers will point at a beaten-up Italy; win without it and the management team will come under serious scrutiny. Don't win and -- well, it doesn't bare contemplation.

For their part, Nick Mallett's men are making slow but sure progress. There was the annual win over Scotland and heroic physical efforts against Ireland and England. It could just come down to how interested Wales are.

Verdict: Wales.

Wales: L Byrne; T Prydie, J Hook, J Roberts, S Williams; S Jones, M Phillips; G Jenkins, M Rees, A Jones, B Davies, L Charteris, J Thomas, S Warburton, R Jones (capt).

Italy: L McLean; A Masi, G Canale, G Garcia, Mirco Bergamasco; C Gower, T Tebaldi; S Perugini, L Ghiraldini (capt), M Castrogiovanni, Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami, J Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, A Zanni.

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