Sat, Mar 27, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Wales, Italy have chance to build on Scotland win

AFP , Cardiff

Wales and Italy have had similar Six Nations campaigns but today's Millennium Stadium finale gives them one last chance to build on the victory they have both achieved over bottom of the table Scotland this season.

For Wales it would be the ideal send-off for their coach Steve Hansen, who is returning home having completed his contract to become a member of Graham Henry's All Black coaching staff.

And for Italy, whose New Zealand coach John Kirwan has said this could be his last game in charge, it would be a first away win since they entered the tournament back in 2000.

Recent history suggests a hard-fought encounter. Last season Italy beat Wales for the first time, 30-22 in Rome, Hansen's men losing all their Six Nations matches.

But it was a different story at the World Cup where, in what was effectively a quarter-final play-off, Wales came through 27-15 in Canberra.

However, the Italians were left nursing an understandably huge grievance after being forced to play four World Cup matches in the space of 14 days.

And Hansen warned: "They are probably coming to tell the world they should have been in the quarter-finals. We've got to match that and prepare as well as we have done for all our big games."

Meanwhile former All Black wing Kirwan was well aware of what an away win would mean for Italy.

"As a Latin side we don't travel well but that's changed, an away win is high in the team's mind," Kirwan told the BBC on Thursday.

"If we do that they'll be building monuments in Rome," he joked.

However, on a more serious note, echoing Hansen's comments about his fledgling Welsh side, Kirwan added: "If I am not in charge of Italy next season -- and there is a pretty big possibility at this stage -- I hope whoever takes over sticks with this team," he said.

Kirwan has recalled Andrea Masi and Santiago Dellape for Saturday's match following last weekend's 19-3 defeat in Ireland.

Masi replaces Matteo Barbini and will play at outside centre instead of Cristian Stoica, who moves inside.

New Zealand-born Scott Palmer has been dropped and replaced by Dellape.

The Argentine flanker will play in the second row, while Carlo Checcinato moves to No.8.

Checchinato is carrying a slight knock and so Calvisano's Roberto Mandelli is on stand-by.

Should Checcinato play he will become Italy's most-capped player with 84 appearances.

The Treviso forward currently shares the record with Alessandro Troncon, who has not played in the Six Nations this year due to injury.

Meanwhile lock Gareth Llewellyn is set to tie fly-half great Neil Jenkins's Wales appearance record of 87 Tests.

The Neath-Swansea player, a former Wales captain, replaced injured Celtic Warriors second-row Brent Cockbain during last Saturday's 31-21 defeat against world champions England at Twickenham.

Hansen has also been forced to change his back-row with captain Colin Charvis moving to number six to accommodate the return of Martyn Williams after Jonathan Thomas sustained a shoulder injury.

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