A new beginning for both teams has seen wholesale changes to their coaching staff. Wales bring in the successful Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac to replace Warren Gatland, while the Italians have recruited Franco Smith following the resignation of Conor O’Shea.
A 22-match losing run in the Six Nations leaves a lot to be desired for the Azzurri as their last victory in this tournament came back in 2015 at Murrayfield.
In fact, they’re a woeful W12-D1-L87 in this competition and it’s not surprising that people are starting to call for a relegation system to be put in place to give the likes of Georgia a go.
The Welsh will be hurting from their semi-final exit at the World Cup, but also proud of what they achieved as they very nearly beat the eventual winners.
As expected the new coach Pivac has opted for an exciting team in this opener with attractive running rugby being his preferred style as George North starts in the centres, while the promising Scarlets winger Johnny McNicholl will hope he can impress on his debut.
Wales -22 Handicap
Smith has a hell of a job on his hands to try and turn around the visitors’ dismal form in this competition.
Indeed, they’ve lost each of their nine trips to fellow Six Nations opposition by more than 12 points since March 2016, as six of those came by more than 20.
Moreover, they’ve now lost 15 straight matches against Tier One opposition since 2017, 8 of which exceeded the 22 points handicap.
George North To Score Anytime
It’s therefore expected that the hosts will cross the whitewash a few times over the 80 minutes. 28 tries in their five matches against Italy in this tournament since 2015 says all we need to know.
George North scored in all four of the matches he played in that run, touching down as many as seven times and he looks well priced to get his 2020 tryscoring tally off to a flyer.
WALES V ITALY TEAMS
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 George North, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Nick Tompkins
Italy: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Abraham Steyn, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Niccolò Cannone, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Andrea Lovotti, 2 Luca Bigi (c), 1 Giosuè Zilocchi
Replacements: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Giovanni Licata, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Jayden Hayward
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