Wales' Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams. Pic: Simon King/Replay Images.

Gatland The Gambler Is Actually Banking World Cup Wins, Insists Liam Williams

Liam Williams has insisted Warren Gatland was right to roll the dice in Rome – and believes there is little danger of Wales not finding the right numbers.

The Saracens full-back is one of only five survivors from the team that opened the Six Nations with a comeback victory in France after Gatland rang the changes for Saturday’s match in Italy.

The Wales coach made 12 changes to his starting line-up for last season’s corresponding fixture in Cardiff, and Wales launched an ongoing 10-game unbeaten run by beating the Azzurri 38-14.

This time round, it is 10 switches, with full-back Williams among only five starting survivors from the team that wiped out a 16-point deficit seven days ago to beat France 24-19.

Wales prepared for the Rome encounter with a 31-man training group during five days on the Cote d’Azur earlier this week, with Gatland utilising his squad at the start of a World Cup year.

Asked if 10 changes could be a potential risk to continuity, Williams said: “No, I don’t think so. I think it’s great.

“We have so much competition up for grabs in each position, and it’s great for us looking forward to the World Cup.

“That might be one of the reasons why Warren has changed the team. I think we will be fine at the weekend, and hopefully we will get the win.”

Recent history between Italy and Wales suggests that the visitors could enjoy a points blitz.

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In the countries’ last four Six Nations games, Wales have racked up a total of 199 points, with two of their four victories seeing them score more than 60 points.

They are also on a 12-Test winning run at Italy’s expense, but Saracens star Williams has urged caution.

“We know Italy are a tough team to play against at home,” he added.

“In the last couple of times we’ve played in Rome it has been very tight in the first half and then we’ve pulled away in the second half and won the game comfortably.

“We have to play for 80 minutes. Against France we played very poorly in the first half and were much better in the second. This week we need to play for the full 80.

“Our first job is to go out there and play well as a team. If the opportunities to score four tries arise, then we have to take them.

“That is especially important in international rugby. What will be will be, but we will do our best to get one (bonus point).

“Four years ago we came out to Italy and we were winning by a point at half time, and then we went out and scored 47 points in the second half.

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“I don’t think that statistic of them not winning for a long time is going to make a big difference to the game.

“Italy played very well in the second half against Scotland and came back right at the end. That shows once again that we have to play for 80 minutes, and not 40.”

Wales flanker Thomas Young is relishing the chance to make his third Test appearance and his first in the Guinness Six Nations.

Young’s previous two caps came against Tonga and Samoa in the summer of 2017, but he has been named in the starting side for the clash in Rome. Now, the Wasps back-row forward can’t wait to run out at the Stadio Olimpico.

“It’ been a long time for me, but I’ve been focusing on club level. Everyone wants to play international rugby, but my focus had to be on Wasps and playing well,” Young said.

“Wales have a lot of quality back-rowers. If my focus went away from what I was doing week in, week out, then you tend to start not playing well. Obviously I’m glad to be here now.

“It is really competitive in this Wales squad, but I suppose that brings out the best in every player as every time you go out you have to make sure you are playing well.

“From my point of view I’ve just got to keep knocking on the door. I like to get the ball in my hands and be an attacking threat. This season I’ve worked a lot on the breakdown aspect and I may have had a bit of reward for that. I will continue to work on it.”

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Young will pack down in the Welsh back-row alongside Aaron Wainwright and Josh Navidi. Experienced centre Jonathan Davies will captain Gatland’s team for the first time.

Young has never played in the Six Nations, but he does have experience of the tournament – as a mascot for his father and former Wales international Dai.

“I was eight or nine and my brothers Lewis and Owen and I all ran out with our little red shirts as mascots for dad’s 50th cap,” Young said. “That’s one I do remember, but it’s one dad wants to forget as he was captain and Wales got a bit of a hammering. It was still a proud moment for us all.

“The Six Nations is probably the best competition in the world and everyone watches it. To be part of it and actually play in it is something I’ll be very proud of.

“My parents were both happy when they found out and they started looking for flights. They get to Rome on Saturday morning.

“They are proud. It’ll be a lovely occasion and it’s something I’m looking forward to.”

Young’s turn of pace, defensive intensity and high-class breakdown work has seen him represent Wales at every level before that senior debut against Tonga in 2017.

Gatland was away with the British and Irish Lions when Young gained his previous two international caps so the flanker will be eager to show exactly what he’s made of in Rome.

Italy: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 1 Nicola Quaglio, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 3 Simone Ferrari, 4 David Sisi, 5 Dean Budd, 6 Sebastian Negri, 7 Abraham Steyn, 8 Sergio Parisse.

Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14. Jonah Holmes, 13 Jonathan Davies (c), 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Aled Davies; 1 Nicky Smith, 2 Elliot Dee, 3 Samson Lee, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Adam Beard, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Thomas Young, 8 Josh Navidi.

Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Gareth Anscombe, 23 Hallam Amos.

One thought on “Gatland The Gambler Is Actually Banking World Cup Wins, Insists Liam Williams

  1. It’s good to know that the Welsh full back approves of the team selected. However,it is not news,and since it is not news it must be propaganda.All the same good luck to the boys for this afternoon.

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