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Rob Howley Tells Wales To Party Like It’s Better Than 1999

Rob Howley has urged Wales to add to the abundant history of their surroundings in Rome this weekend by creating some of their own.

The Wales assistant coach wants his team to provide more ruin for the Italians by building on the unbeaten run that has taken the visitors to within touching distance of new records.

Victory over Guinness Six Nations opponents Italy in the Eternal City on Saturday would see Wales equal their all-time winning sequence of 11 Tests set between 1907 and 1910.

It would also take them past the 10-game undefeated run of 1999, when Howley was Wales captain.

Wales have not lost since Ireland toppled them at the midway point of last season’s Six Nations, accounting for France (twice), South Africa (twice), Argentina (twice), Australia, Scotland, Italy and Tonga since then.

“That (1999) run is something I look back on with fond memories,” said Howley.

“But I want the record to be broken by the current players, and for them to create their own history and build their own confidence for the World Cup and what is a huge year.

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“Winning is a habit, and you always seem to find a way to do it. Along the way you always seem to find a bit more luck, too.

“I said to (former Wales team-mate) Neil Jenkins when we went through our winning run in 1999, you didn’t want to be the players in the jersey when you lose.

“You’ve got a big responsibility when you play – as a result – and fingers crossed it will go well when we play this weekend.

“There is always a turning point for a team, and I suppose in 1999 ours was beating England at Wembley. That was huge for us.

“It was one of my best games as a Wales international, just in terms of the performance and us actually winning the game in the manner in which we did with Scott Gibbs’ try.

“We scored some great tries, and that was the start for us going into the 1999 World Cup.

“Everyone uses the word ‘momentum’ in championship rugby, and especially in the Six Nations. It’s been a good season for us so far, but you always need to look and learn.

“Over the last 12 months we have been building nicely. We feel we are in a really good place, but you are only as good as your next game, and for us it’s Italy next.”

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Wales head coach Warren Gatland is expected to make a number of changes from the side that completed a record Six Nations fightback from 16-0 adrift to beat France in Paris last Friday.

Centre Jonathan Davies will captain Wales for the first time, with regular skipper Alun Wyn Jones on the bench, while Owen Watkin looks set to partner Davies in midfield.

There might also be opportunities for the likes of prop Wyn Jones and flankers Aaron Wainwright and Thomas Young as Wales target a win that could take them top of the championship.

Howley added: “Coming out with a win against France – and the way it was done and achieved – was massive for us. To be 16-0 down and win was huge.

“I think when you look across all our positions, we feel that we have got the strength in depth.

“At the moment, we feel we have got two and even three players in a position, and when you are going into a World Cup you need that flexibility.

“I think we have always had flexibility in terms of players playing in different positions, but I think now we actually have a core strength and depth.”


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