Wales second
CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 11: Hadleigh Parkes of Wales scores their first try during the NatWest Six Nations match between Wales and Italy at Principality Stadium on March 11, 2018 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

A brace of tries from George North and a ‘Man of the match’ performance from Hadleigh Parkes places Wales second behind Ireland, in the Natwest Six Nations race.

Ireland have already wrapped up the Six Nations title, but second place is firmly open to four other teams. 

Wales seal a Solid Win 38-14 over Italy

A solid, but far from orthodox win for Warren Gatland’s men, leaves Wales second, one point clear of the chasing pack. England now sit beneath Wales, however Welsh fans saw a lot of errors strewn throughout the home teams performance. Even those with ‘one eye’ will say they left a lot of points on the field.

Italy too had a ‘smorgasbord of errors’ alongside their lack of clinical attack, all contributing to their downfall. Wales were able to gain turnovers at key moments, that started after just two minutes; via James Davies on his debut.

George North crossed over the tryline twice in an impressive game from the winger. He’ll be pleased with such a performance following a tough few weeks at the hands of Alan Gaffney.

Wales utilised the set piece inside Italy’s 22, to attack from and scored a couple of tries from such moves. They showed more patience than in previous weeks, as Wales looked to build phases, rather than ‘chuck the ball wide’ as quickly as possible.

The scrum was a lottery though, with both sides infringing in the front row. However Wales’ second row pairing really carried well, and the defensive efforts were at times, superb. Italy too showed in patches what they can do with the likes of Mattia Bellini, Dean Budd and Matteo Minozzi all having a solid campaign game this afternoon, albeit for 14 point return.

The outcome is what Welsh fans will enjoy most though!

Wales second, but France pose big challenge in Cardiff

Wales may be second at the moment, but France will be no pushovers. The upcoming round five fixture will pose a tough threat, following France’s impressive victory over England; 22-16.

One area that Wales will have to be wary of, is the breakdown. France dominated a troubled English setup and following this afternoon’s display, Wales will need to find a better balance. Allowing an out-and-out blindside in the six jersey is a must.

Justin Tipuric was slightly quieter than Wales would have wanted this afternoon. With the likes of Guilhem Guirado and Yacouba Camara pushing hard around the edges, Wales must avoid turnovers. Whether Gatland sticks with James Davies, who made a solid debut, is another matter.

Josh Navidi and Aaron Shingler look set to come back into the squad, and Taulupe Faletau would retain his spot. This evens out of the openside/blindside equation, whilst retaining the number eight.

France will also utilise their powerful runners. Mathieu Bastareaud has come alight since coming back into the Six Nations squad. He’ll really test Gareth Anscombe’s defence if the Cardiff Blues utility back retains his starting spot. Anscombe was solid in defence, making 10 tackles, but having ’18 stones of French powerhouse’ running down your throat, can be a rather more overpowering feeling.

Welsh set piece lineouts a Strength

The front row looked sloppy at the scrums today against a rather average Italian pack, a few names aside: Sergio Parisse, Alessandro Zanni and Leonardo Ghiraldini. However, the line-outs are another matter. In that set piece, Wales have looked strong and it has been utilised as an ‘attacking platform’.

France had a shocker at their line-out against England, losing their first three to turnovers. If Wales can retain solid possession off their own ball, and pressure France, then they’ll limit the rolling maul and immediate attack from Les Bleus.

It was something England managed, despite not even managing parity at the breakdown. Gatland knows that a fit and rested Alun Wyn-Jones [Faletau and emerging Cory Hill should profit in this area, if supported by good line throwing and a loose forward trio to breakthrough the defensive wall.

Retaining Wales second place, in the final round of the NatWest Six Nations, will certainly be an entertaining weekend. If players can maintain the standards shown today, then it might finish of a satisfactory 6 Nations.

Wales vs Italy – Player Ratings:

Nicky Smith 5: Didn’t have a great day at the scrums and wasn’t busy enough around the park.

Elliot Dee 6:  Performed solidly at the line-outs and acceptable in the scrum, but lacked around the field a bit.

Tomas Francis 5: Had a shocker at the scrum against Andrea Lovotti of Italy. Worked around the park to make tackles, but the scrums were lacking on his side.

Cory Hill 7: Scoring his first international try, the Dragons lock had a solid day around the park and held a line-out well throughout. Been a revelation so far this tournament and will surely retain his spot vs France.

Brad Davies 7: Worked very well in tandem with Hill. Solid around the park, effecting the Italian breakdown. Lineout option was steady too.

Justin Tipuric 6: Had a quiet day for his standards. Made tackles, but didn’t create a huge impact on a game where he really should have done. Scored a try, but was quiet elsewhere.

James Davies 7: Started off with a turnover within two minutes of kick-off. Leading the match in tackles made, really put in a hard shift and will trouble Navidi for his spot against France. Made a few mistakes, but a solid debut for ”Cubby Boi”.

Taulupe Faletau (Captain) 7: Put in his usual big shift of huge tackles, pressuring the Italian’s in the breakdown. Solid at the back of the scrum and a real attacking option off the lineout and phase one ball. Good game; with the added pressure of being captain.

Gareth Davies 7: Was sharper than usual at the breakdown and delivered solid ball when required. Maintained a steady Wales attack throughout.

Gareth Anscombe 8: Great game from Anscombe. Surprising to see him leave the field as early as he did after putting in an immense shift of 10 tackles in defence as well as aiding Wales to a fully fledged, flowing attack. Also had a good day off the tee.

Steff Evans 6: Wasn’t at his best today, running away from the support runners as well as making the odd mistake here and there, though these went unpunished. An average day for the Scarlets winger.

Hadleigh Parkes 9:  An outstanding display oozing confidence and composure wherever he went. Powerful running lines shown by his try as well as supporting the men outside of him on the break. His kicking game must also get a mention as he got Wales out of trouble several times today with his boot.

Owen Watkin 7: Impressive display from the young man. Made some excellent breaks throughout the game whilst holding strong in defence when Italy looked the best they have all tournament.

George North 8: A brace of tries taking him to eight more than anybody else in the tournament since 2011. Looked busy and powerful, beating defenders all game. Could have had one or maybe two more chances if things had gone his way.

Liam Williams 5: Had a poor day, finished off with a yellow card. Didn’t show any of his attacking presence before going to the bin for a clumsy challenge.

Wales Replacements:

Ken Owens 6, Rob Evans 6, Rhodri Jones 6, Seb Davies 5, Ellis Jenkins 5, Aled Davies 6.5, Rhys Patchell 6.5, Leigh Halfpenny 6.

Italy Player Ratings:

Andrea Lovotti 7, Leornardo Ghiraldini 7, Simone Ferrari 6, Allessandro Zanni 6, Dean Budd 6.5, Seb Negri 6, Maxime Mbanda 5, Sergio Parisse 6, Marcello Violi 5, Tommasso Allen 5, Andrea Bellini 7, Tommaso Castello 5, Giulio Bisegni 5, Tommaso Benvenutti 5, Matteo Minozzi 7.

Italy Replacements:

Fabiani 5, Quaglio 5, Pasquali 5, Ruzza 5, Licata 5, Palazzani 5, Canna 5, Hayward 6.

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Wales v France – 5:00pm, Saturday March 17. Principality Stadium, Cardiff.

 

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