Sam Warburton absence won’t harm Wales’ chances against Italy
Wales will be without skipper Sam Warburton for their crucial Six Nations clash with Italy this Saturday – but that should make no difference to the outcome.
Warren Gatland’s men are huge 1/33 favourites for the clash and, even though the Cardiff Blues man is out with a knee injury, Wales have more than enough throughout their XV to keep their Grand Slam bid alive.
Justin Tipuric will replace Warburton in the pack, while Gethin Jenkins will replace the flanker as skipper.
Meanwhile, a big boost for Gatland comes in the shape of centre Jamie Roberts who has been passed fit to play after being withdrawn at half-time in Wales’ England victory with a knee problem.
He will start this Italy clash and continue the brutal ball-carrying that has been so crucial to Wales’ success so far.
In fact, complacency may be the biggest problem for a far superior Wales team against Italy – but that is something Gatland doesn’t see happening.
Gatland said: “Italy will be hoping to find us complacent and with one eye on the French game, but nothing less than victory on Saturday will be accepted by this Wales team or satisfy the nation behind us.
“All of that leaves the players themselves brimming with ruthless intent.”
That “ruthless intent” should be more than enough to see Wales bag a win but, they shouldn’t have things all their own way.
Wales have won their last three encounters against Italy but by an average of just 12 points.
Backing Italy to triumph with a +21pt head start could prove to be a shrewd punt at 10/11.
Wales team to play Italy
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Blues)
14. Alex Cuthbert (Blues)
13. Jonathan Davies (Scarlets)
12. Jamie Roberts (Blues)
11. George North (Scarlets)
10. Rhys Priestland (Scarlets)
9. Mike Phillips (Bayonne)
1. Gethin Jenkins (Blues, capt)
2. Matthew Rees (Scarlets)
3. Adam Jones (Ospreys)
4. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys)
5. Ian Evans (Ospreys)
6. Dan Lydiate (Dragons)
7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys)
8. Toby Faletau (Dragons).