HomeSportsWales v Italy: Match preview & BBC coverage

Wales v Italy: Match preview & BBC coverage


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Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Date: Saturday 16 March Kick-off: 14:15 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and online from 13:45 GMT; listen on BBC Sport website, BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru; text commentary and highlights on BBC Sport website and app.

Wales face in-form Italy desperate to avoid claiming a Wooden Spoon for only the second time in the Six Nations.

If Italy win or draw in Cardiff on Saturday, then Wales will finish bottom for the first time since 2003.

The Welsh have their work cut out against a rejuvenated Azzurri side that won on their last visit to Cardiff and stunned Scotland last weekend.

Winger George North announced this week he is retiring from Wales duty and will want to bow out on a high.

He will be earning his 121st cap, while his tally of 47 tries is second only to Shane Williams on Wales’ all-time list.

It’s hard to believe that only five months ago Italy shipped a combined total of 156 points in two humbling World Cup defeats by France and New Zealand.

Now they have the opportunity to match their highest Six Nations finish of fourth set in 2007 and 2013, while if results go their way they could even rise to an unprecedented third.

Team news

Wales: North returns to the side for his 121st and final cap for Wales after being omitted from the starting line-up against France. He replaces Joe Roberts, while his fellow centre Nick Tompkins returns in place of Owen Watkin.

Two other changes by Warren Gatland are in the pack, where prop Dillon Lewis is preferred to Keiron Assiratti and flanker Alex Mann is promoted from the replacements.

As a result of Mann’s inclusion, captain Dafydd Jenkins, who played flanker against France, returns to his usual second-row spot alongside Adam Beard, with Will Rowlands dropping to the bench.

Uncapped prop Harri O’Connor could make his debut off the bench – the three front row replacements have just two caps between them. Kieran Hardy is preferred to Gareth Davies as the back-up scrum-half.

Italy: Italy coach Gonzalo Quesada has made three changes from the win over Scotland.

Full-back Ange Capuozzo is absent after breaking his finger in that win, with Zebre’s Lorenzo Pani replacing him.

Wales-born scrum-half Stephen Varney is selected ahead of Martin Page-Relo after he came on to score a try against the Scots.

In the pack, Lorenzo Cannone is selected at number eight in place of Exeter’s Ross Vintcent, who drops to the bench.

Commentator’s notes

Andrew Cotter: Reasons to be optimistic for Wales? Well, their attack carries plenty of threat – only Ireland and Scotland have scored more tries in this championship.

Added to that, George North will be determined to end his glorious career on a high and will bring some invaluable power to the ball-carrying.

The concern for Wales is that they have conceded more tries than any other side and, while Italy don’t possess the overwhelming weight of France, the Azzurri have an impressive scrum and also have great continuity of selection.

Yes, Ange Capuozzo is a loss at full-back but there will be real motivation for them to achieve their best-ever finish in a championship.

Bookmakers are seldom wrong and they do have Wales to win by eight or nine points but I suspect it might be closer – this could be a great contest to start the final day.

View from both camps

Wales head coach Warren Gatland: “This is an important game for us. We definitely don’t want to finish bottom and the squad is hungry to win.

“We’re still looking for that 80-minute performance and have spoken about needing to be better in the big moments especially.

“We understand that external pressure and expectation comes with international rugby. It’s about embracing that, continuing the hard work and fronting up in training to go out there and be accurate and disciplined.”

Italy head coach Gonzalo Quesada: “We have a good opportunity, but it’s going to be a tough match in a hostile atmosphere.

“We’re playing against a rugby nation and a team in a difficult situation who will be very motivated as it is George North’s last match.”


Wales: 15-Winnett; 14-Adams, 13-North, 12-Tompkins, 11-Dyer; 10-Costelow, 9-Williams; 1-Thomas, 2-Dee, 3-Lewis, 4-Jenkins (capt), 5-Beard, 6-Mann, 7-Reffell, 8-Wainwright

Replacements: 16-Lloyd, 17-Mathias, 18-O’Connor, 19-Rowlands, 20-Martin, 21-Hardy, 22-Lloyd, 23-Grady.

Italy: 15-Pani; 14-Lynagh, 13-Brex, 12-Menoncello, 11-Ioane; 10-Garbisi, 9-Varney; 1-Fischetti, 2-Nicotera, 3-Ferrari, 4-N Cannone, 5-Ruzza, 6-Negri, 7-Lamaro (capt), 8-L Cannone

Replacements: 16-Lucchesi, 17-Spagnolo, 18-Zilocchi, 19- Favretto, 20-Vintcent, 21-Zuliani, 22-Page-Relo, 23-Marin

French players Olivier Magne and Vincent Clerc celebrate scoring a try in their win over Wales in the 2003 Six Nation

Match facts


  • Italy won in Cardiff for the first time in 17 attempts on their last visit in March 2022.
  • Wales have won 28 of their 32 clashes with Italy, losing three and drawing one.


  • Wales have lost 11 of their past 12 Six Nations games, last winning versus Italy in March 2023.
  • They’ve lost six Six Nations home Tests in a row, their longest ever run in the Five/Six Nations. However, two of those defeats have come by single-point margins.
  • This is only the third time in the Six Nations that they’ve lost their opening four games (also 2003 & 2007).
  • The only time they have lost all five of their Six Nations fixtures was in 2003 under Steve Hansen.


  • Italy have avoided defeat in back-to-back Six Nations fixtures for the first time in 11 years (they won their final game in 2012 and opening match in 2013) and for only the second time in the same tournament (won in both rounds three and four in 2007).
  • The Azzurri have never avoided defeat in three consecutive Championship matches.
  • They have only won two matches in a Six Nations twice before in 2007 and 2013.
  • They have won more turnovers than any other team in this year’s Six Nations (24), however, only Ireland have conceded fewer turnovers (40) than Wales (46) so far.

Match officials

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)

Touch judges: Chris Busby (Ireland) & Morne Ferreira (South Africa)

TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)

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