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It’s somewhat of a surprise to see Wales on their current unbeaten run so far this Six Nations and lifting the Triple Crown a fortnight ago.
Having come into the tournament as fourth favourites at a huge 24/1 to lift the title having lost seven of their 10 matches under Wayne Pivac, not many would’ve predicted them to have made it this far unscathed.
By stark contrast, Italy have continued in their usual losing ways, and are heading towards yet another wooden spoon.
Wales managed the unthinkable by beating their old rivals England last time out, but not without controversy. I think it’s fair to say the officials didn’t have the best of days that day, but nonetheless, this Welsh outfit got the job done to make it three wins from three heading to Rome for this weekend.
One thing Pivac has been able to do is beat the Azzurri, doing so on both occasions since he took the Welsh job following the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The first of those was a 42-0 hammering at Principality Stadium, while the other a closer 38-18 at Parc y Scarlets.
Wales -24 Handicap
As expected, Ireland put the Italians to the sword a fortnight ago to make it now 30 straight defeats in this competition, and Franco Smith has his work cut out if he wants to put an end to that.
They have lost all 15 meetings with Wales since the start of 2008 too, as the last six have come by an average deficit of 28 points.
They have kept things tighter in Rome though, with that average reducing to just 18 points over the six encounters at this stadium, but they won’t have the crowds on their side this time around.
Moreover, up against potential Grand Slam winners, we would expect the handicap line to be a lot bigger than 24 points, with the Irish covering the 22-point handicap line set in the last round by some 16 points, as the hosts have now lost their three matches this tournament by 40, 23 and 38 point margins.
To make that bet even more convincing, Wales have named a largely unchanged team to the one that beat the Red Roses, with only Cory Hill and Gareth Davies coming on in at second row and scrum half respectively.
George North To Score Anytime
Another angle we can’t help but get behind is starting centre George North to score again against Italy.
He has 10 tries in his last seven matches against the Azzurri since 2015, scoring in each, and when you consider four of those came from his two games in Rome, we have to get behind him to cross the whitewash again.
Italy v Wales Teams
Italy: 15 Jacopo Trulla, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Juan Ignacio Brex, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Montanna Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Stephen Varney, 8 Michele Lamaro, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 David Sisi, 4 Niccolo Cannone, 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi (c), 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Maxime Mbanda, 21 Marcello Violi, 22 Federico Mori, 23 Edoardo Padovani
Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Uilisi Halaholo