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Wales victory assured but Italians can still overturn handicap

| 31.01.2014

Considering Wales have lost only one of their last 10 Six Nations matches and have never lost to Italy in Wales pre-match odds of 1/25 are more than understandable.

The match odds are no doubt prohibitive, but such has been the strength of Warren Gatland’s side in this competition over the last two years they are difficult to argue against.

The Welsh have won all of their nine previous home meetings with the Azzuri aside from the 18-18 draw at the Millenium Stadium back in 2006.

It has been 11 years since the Italians inflicted their second and last defeat on the favourites and their recent history in Cardiff suggests it would be a major surprise if the underdogs were to come even close to an upset.

The layers have given Italy a handicap of +19 points at evens, a deficit that the Welsh would have overcome in the last three years of this fixture.

In fact, only once since the turn of the millennium, in that aforementioned draw, have Italy managed to keep the winning margin within Saturday’s handicap and it’s difficult to advice betting against that trend continuing for another year.

However, although Italy have only won one of their last 13 Week 1 games, when shocking France last year in Rome, in none of their last four opening matches have they been beaten by 19 points or more.

From their last 13 Week 1 games (all played against either Ireland, France or England) they would have won on seven occasions with the forecasted head-start.

It is now also widely accepted that they have improved greatly since, for example, their dismal 2004 curtain-raiser where they were pummelled 50-9 in their own back yard by England.

As a result, it may be worth siding with the Italians with the 19 point lead despite their largely woeful personal history against the Welsh.

Italy are at their most vulnerable later on in the competition when the initial enthusiasm has waned and the table standings doesn’t make for good reading.

They achieved one of the most memorable moments in their history and in the timeline of the Six Nations, on what will be almost a year ago when they play Wales, and those memories should be fresh enough to make them competitive for the majority of the game and keep the winning margin at least respectable.

What is also of interest is the total points line which has been chalked up as 41.5. Investments on under that mark would have paid dividends in the last three meetings between the two sides and at 5/6 going under that quote looks a sensible alternative if the handicap market doesn’t appeal.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Sam Foster