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Wales explain why they brought forward their XV announcement by two days and highlight what they want from the recalled Gareth Davies

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

Grand Slam-chasing Wales have outlined why they opted to announce their team to play Italy on Saturday in the Guinness Six Nations two days earlier than planned. Wayne Pivac wasn’t due to reveal his Wales XV for Rome until Thursday but he instead chose to go public much earlier. 


“We have had a good nine days since the last match and we knew our side once the injuries were all settled,” said Pivac as he seeks to build on an excellent February for Wales which featured Triple Crown-clinching wins over Ireland, Scotland and England. “Internally what we wanted to do was name the team nice and early so we have a good build-up and that is certainly what we have done and it’s about what serves us best for this particular week.”

This best interest included limiting the changes to the starting XV to just two, Gareth Davies returning at scrum-half in place of the injured Kieran Hardy and Cory Hill getting promoted from the bench due to a need to rest the banged up Adam Beard.   

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Wales’ Dan Lydiate guests on RugbyPass Offload

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Wales’ Dan Lydiate guests on RugbyPass Offload

Quizzed on Tuesday about this pair of alterations, Wales boss Pivac said: “Tomos (Williams) wasn’t quite ready. Gareth has been the top two since Tomas has been out injured so we have just stuck with Gareth. “He has got a couple of things in the game he has been working on. Speed to the breakdown is one we want with all our nines.

“We want to move the ball and get it away from the breakdown area quickly so that is what he will be focusing on, and Lloyd (Williams), who has been training very well, comes in on the bench.

“Adam has had a pretty big workload in camp and he was a bit banged up to be honest so we are giving him a break this week. He will come to Rome with us but won’t be in the 23,” continued Pivac, adding what he now expects to see from Hill, a try-scorer off the bench the last day versus England.

“A lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm. He has trained very, very well and that is why he earned his spot on the bench (against the English). He made an impact when he came on, I’m sure everyone saw that, so we’re happy he will come in and have a start. We’ll freshen up Adam and Alun Wyn just rocks on as usual.


“Jake Ball has also been training very well throughout the whole campaign. We feel he deserves an opportunity in this game as well and it’s nice to see him get his 50th Test match under his belt.”

Declaring out-half Dan Biggar fit for the Italian job despite limping off early in the second half versus the English, Pivac explained why he resisted making more than two Wales changes even though he could have understandably rested some players ahead of the likely March 20 Grand Slam decider versus France.

“For us, it is about the performance and we are not overly happy with the full 80 minutes yet. We have done some things very well in games and most people would agree we are improving in many areas, but we still have got a long way to go and this team is building a bit of momentum. We want to stay with that momentum and reward the players who have done the bulk of it so far. Certainly, it is another opportunity to build combinations and get our game ready for the last match of the competition.

“We have talked around how we want to play the game and there are two very important games to go and it’s about getting results, so 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 razzle-dazzle. It’s important that we continue to use the 80 minutes and develop our game the way we want to against the opposition.


You are seeing a more expansive game from Italy so they pose a few different problems from a defensive point of view than maybe they did a year or two ago. We’ll go out there and make sure our defence is in order. That has been improving and we want to maintain that. We’ll put that challenge in front of the boys but also in attack we want to be very decisive and take our opportunities when they present themselves.”

Pivac insisted there would be no room for complacency. “That message was delivered by the players themselves and we just echoed that. That started in the changing room after the game against England. What the England game has done is put us in a great position but like I said after the game we don’t want to undo the good work that has been done in the first three matches.

“We are taking this game as an important stepping stone in the building of our game going forward and it’s a great opportunity for us to go out there and continue to work hard.”


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Flankly 3 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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