By Kasey Rees
The defending champions got the Wayne Pivac era off to a flying start as they beat Italy 42-0 in their coach’s first Guinness Six Nations campaign in charge of Wales.
There was attacking promise in the first half, despite giving away penalties and opening space for Italy to exploit, but two tries from Josh Adams and three penalties by Dan Biggar were enough to give Wales a comfortable 21-0 lead at the half-time break.
Pivac’s men did not start the second half like the first, as Italy enjoyed momentum by winning a few penalties at the scrum that came from line-out mishaps from Wales.
But despite making a few mistakes Wales were easy victors. Further tries from debutant Nick Tompkins and George North were enough secure the bonus point, with Biggar kicking five goals to Leigh Halfpenny’s two.
It was Josh Adams try in the final play of the game – to give him a hat-trick – that sealed humiliation for Italy.
Pivac was pleased enough with the outcome and said: “It was a pretty good performance. We got the five points we were after. We’re pleased to have done that.
“Holding Italy scoreless was brilliant as that doesn’t often happen at this level. The boys worked very hard and wanted to play a bit more at times. We achieved that but at times we may have over-played a bit.
“In the first half we were caught out a lot, a couple of quick throw to make sure we were awake, so there is plenty to work on which is pleasing.
“Looking ahead to the Ireland match we will look at them and review our performance and look at the areas that we need to concentrate on.”
Man of the Match Justin Tipric said: “It was a great team performance.It is nice to start the campaign with a bonus point win and I think it is makes it special to see zero on the board for them as well.
“To not concede any points in our first game of the Six Nations is a good start. I think we can get better and better. It was probably a snapshot of what we could do today.
“Strength and depth in Wales, especially in the back row, is crazy, really, and whoever takes to the field has to put a shift in for the team.
“We have got so much quality that even if we have injuries, I am pretty sure whoever steps in will do a great job.”
Cardiff Blues wing Adams became the first Wales player to claim a Five/Six Nations hat-trick at home since Maurice Richards scored four against England in 1969.
Adams was the top try scorer at the 2019 World Cup in Japan with seven and has now scored 10 in his last eight international appearances.
He was a top try scorer on the biggest stage so he’s got to be right up there, that has to speak for itself really,” Pivac said when asked where he rated Adams in world terms.
“With Stephen (Jones) running the attack and the way we want to play the game, I think wingers will get more opportunities.
“I don’t think he’ll be too fazed by the way we want to play the game. I think he’ll enjoy it.
“I liked his last try. He could have easily just parked up out on his wing but, after more than 80 minutes, he’s in close to the ruck looking for the ball and using his strengths to get over the try line.”
North’s try moved him on to 40 and alongside Gareth Thomas in the all-time Wales list.
“It was a pretty good performance,” Pivac said. “We got the five points we were after but it wasn’t easy, we had to work hard for it.
“I’m very pleased to have held them scoreless. That doesn’t happen often at this level of the game and I’m pretty pleased for Byron Hayward (defence coach) coming in.”
Wales head to Ireland next weekend and Elliot Dee, Gareth Davies and Owen Watkin should be available after missing the Italy game through injury.
British and Irish Lions full-back or wing Liam Williams is rated “touch and go” with the ankle injury that has ruled him out of action since the World Cup.
Wales haven’t lost in the Six Nations since March 2018. Their win extends their record number of home wins to eight as they start their title defence.
Asked whether Ireland will be a different proposition to Italy, Pivac said: “Massively so. We’ll look at them, review our performance and look at the areas we need to concentrate on in the coming week.
“We certainly know it’s going to be a very tough task.”
Italy have not won a Six Nations match since beating Scotland in February 2015, the Azzurri suffering 23 consecutive defeats.
Man of the match: Justin Tipuric
Referee: Luke Pearce (Eng)