Saturday promises to be a day that will live long in the memory for Rugby fans. Three matches, four possible RBS 6 Nations winners – and really no need to leave the sofa from noon ‘til night.
The first match of the day comes from the Stadio Olimpico, Rome. Wales went in to last weekend’s fixtures needing to beat Ireland to keep their hopes of a championship victory alive. After 80 pulsating, nerve jangling minutes, they had achieved their goal, destroying the Irish Grand Slam dream in the process.
Wales had only beaten Ireland in Cardiff twice in the past 14 attempts, so as pressure built on the home try line in the final quarter of the game, hearts were firmly in Welsh mouths. And despite Jonathan Davies’ yellow card, dogged defence ensured they held on to win an instant classic.
The win adds to the red momentum which has slowly built after the opening day defeat to England. Since then there have been workmanlike victories over Scotland and France, but Saturday’s triumph was a step up in performance.
Odds are against Warren Gatland’s team claiming what would be an unlikely championship victory. Assuming that all three teams on six points win their final matches, Wales would need a huge points swing to claim the title. A 30 point victory over Italy looks to be a minimum requirement to give them a chance. Sam Warburton and co are capable of such a feat, particularly with Leigh Halfpenny’s boot in their ranks, but all facets of their game will need to click in to gear.
As for Italy, the huge win they achieved in Scotland in Round 4 will be forgotten now after a 27-0 defeat to France in Rome. Conditions didn’t help the rugby – reflected by what was a wretched game – but the Italian performance undid all the good work done at Murrayfield.
Inspirational captain Sergio Parisse is a doubt for the final game, having limped off the pitch in the final moments against France. His loss would be a blow to Italian hopes, with a big performance required to boost confidence ahead of the run-up to Rugby World Cup 2015.
The two countries have met 15 times in total, with Wales claiming 12 victories, Italy two and a single draw. Both Italian victories have come in Rome, so those looking for an upset can point to that as something of a bellwether. The last meeting between the two at the Stadio Olimpico ended with a 26-9 victory for Wales.
Wales will surely relish playing first and laying down the marker for the chasing pack. Any sort of victory will put them to the top of the table, ensuring that Ireland and England have to win to surpass them. If Gatland’s men can put that pressure on, anything can happen in the final two matches of the tournament.
Gilbert Rugby ambassador Jake Ball will be looking to make an impact from the bench and help Wales to RBS 6 Nations glory. Follow him on Twitter here and use the same Body Armour
that Jake enjoys at these links
Jake Ball’s headguard – Click Here
Jake Ball’s Body Armour – Click here
Show your support for Italy with an Official Italy Ball
Show your support for Wales with an Official Wales Ball
Get your hands on the Official RBS 6 Nations Supporter Ball