British & Irish Lions

Pivac eyes new horizon for Six Nations kings Wales against Italy

Wayne Pivac (Getty Images)
Wayne Pivac (Getty Images)

Cardiff - New coach Wayne Pivac wants Wales to expand their attacking game but has urged fans to be patient when the reigning Grand Slam champions begin their Six Nations title defence against Italy.

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Saturday's match at Cardiff's Principality Stadium will be the former Scarlets' boss first full international in charge following a 43-33 non-cap win over the Barbarians in November.

Pivac has succeeded Warren Gatland, who won three Grand Slams and saw Wales to two World Cup semi-finals during a 12-year reign that included a last-four defeat by eventual champions South Africa at Japan 2019.

Yet for all the success they enjoyed under Pivac's fellow New Zealander, there remains a sense that Wales have not made the most of their attacking talents - something they must do if they are to be genuine contenders for the next World Cup in France.

For example, Wales managed just 10 tries in five matches during last season's Six Nations clean sweep.

"We're working hard on our attack, but it's going to take a little bit of time," said Pivac.

"Some of the skill-sets need to improve, but where there is a will, there is a way.

"At the moment the boys are very willing, so it's a pretty good start in terms of training."

Italy at home would appear to be an ideal match for a new coach's Six Nations debut.

The Azzurri are on a run of 22 successive defeats in the tournament, a winless run stretching back five years.

They also conceded 22 tries during last year's latest wooden spoon campaign.

"Everyone starts on zero, the Italians are in front of us and we have to knock them over," said Pivac.

Even so, it will be a major surprise if they provide a stern test of George North's midfield defence now that Pivac has moved the powerhouse wing to centre after Jonathan Davies was ruled out of the entire Championship because of a knee injury.

This weekend's match will see North winning his 92nd cap for Wales but making only his fifth appearance in midfield.

"George played a couple of games at centre for the Ospreys, which was great for us," said Pivac. "Jonathan has got the long-term injury at the moment and somebody is going to get the opportunity to play there.

"George gets the first crack at it, and from what we are seeing, we're very happy."

New Zealand-born wing Johnny McNicholl, qualified on residency grounds, makes his Test debut.

For Italy, 20 years on from becoming the 'sixth nation', the quest for respect continues.

A World Cup where Georgia and Russia again showed their potential reopened the debate about whether the Six Nations should remain a closed shop and talk of promotion and relegation will only intensify if Italy endure another winless Championship.

Caretaker coach Franco Smith has two flyhalves in his starting XV, with Tommaso Allan at No 10 and Carlo Canna at inside centre.

Benetton lock Niccolo Cannone makes his Test debut while hooker Luca Bigi captains Italy in place of Sergio Parisse, the back-row great not even in the 23 as his career nears its end.

"We have worked hard on and off the pitch to build synergy between the staff and the players," said Smith.

"We know our potential and what we can give.

"I have faith in the team and can't wait to see them on the pitch against Wales," he added.



15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 George North, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 1- Dan Biggar, 9 Tomos Williams 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones

Substitutes: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Jarrod Evans, 23 Nick Tompkins


15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Carlo Canna, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Braam Steyn, 7 Sebastian Negri, 6 Jake Polledri, 5 Niccolo Cannone, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Giosue Zilochhi, 2 Luca Bigi (captain), 1 Andrea Lovotti

Substitutes: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Marco Riccioni, 19 Dean Budd, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Giovanni Licata, 22 Guglielmo Palazzami, 23 Jayden Hayward

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