As the 2023 Six Nations nears a climactic final weekend, the competition's bottom two sides do battle in Rome in a clash that will likely decide who will props up the table come the end of the tournament.
Italy and Wales' 2022 meeting was an historic one for the Azzurri, who will be more confident than ever facing a Welsh side still searching for their first point of the campaign.
The last weekend of the tournament a year ago saw Wales outscore the Italians by three tries to one in Cardiff, but the visitors' sole score won them the game in the most dramatic of fashions. A last-minute surging run from deep by full-back Ange Capuozzo set up Edoardo Padovani to cross under the posts before Paolo Garbisi's conversion sealed a 22-21 victory for the Azzurri — a victory that was their first in the Six Nations for over seven years.
One of the most famous moments in Italian rugby history… with some equally memorable commentary 🎙#AwakenAnticipation | #ITAvWAL pic.twitter.com/f5QDK9BvVo— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 7, 2023
Italy have come close to replicating that close-run victory on more than one occasion in the 2023 Six Nations. First up against France in Rome, the Azzurri staged a second-half fightback to take a late 24-22 lead against the defending champions, before a late try got France over the line. A first-half onslaught at Twickenham the following week gave Italy a mountain to climb against England, but the never-say-die attitude of this Azzurri side saw them cross twice in the second half to ensure a respectable 31-14 final scoreline.
Italy traded punches for the full 80 minutes against Ireland and were within a converted try for much of the second half. Mack Hansen's late score sealed a third straight defeat for the Azzurri, but one that had again shown their remarkable progress.
🇮🇹 "L’aspetto più impressionante è stato la regolarità con cui l'Italia è stata in grado di aprire la difesa dell’Irlanda, sia da prima fase, che passando da delle ruck veloci"— Guinness Sei Nazioni (@SeiNazioniRugby) March 2, 2023
L'analisi del nuovo rugby d'attacco degli Azzurri 🔵#GuinnessSeiNazioni | @Federugby
Progress, however, cannot be said of Wales' Six Nations campaign so far. They're rock-bottom of the table having lost all three games, and are yet to even notch a bonus point in their favour. Their three defeats, coming to Ireland, Scotland and England via 34-10, 35-7 and 20-10 scorelines respectively, have been marred by sluggish ruck speed and defensive fragility, scoring just one try in each game and conceding 12 tries in total.
While the scoreline against England suggests signs of improvement from the first two games, it far from tells a conclusive story of the game in Cardiff. England were virtually on top from the first minute until the last, outscoring Wales by three tries to one, and the hosts' sole score came via a Louis Rees-Zammit interception straight from kick-off in the second half, with Warren Gatland's side seldom going close again. Their performance simply must improve, and by some distance, if they're to have any chance of beating Italy.
👊 𝘈𝘮𝘥𝘢𝘯𝘪 𝘺𝘯 𝘠𝘳 𝘌𝘪𝘥𝘢𝘭— Welsh Rugby Union 🏴 (@WelshRugbyUnion) March 7, 2023
A look back at some tries against Italy! #WelshRugby | #GuinnessSixNations pic.twitter.com/O8vXP5p0OX
MORE: Wales defeated by England in attritional Cardiff encounter
Italy vs Wales kick-off time
Italy host Wales in the Six Nations Championship at Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy. The game kicks off at 2:15 p.m. GMT on Saturday, March 11, 2023.
Here's how that time translates to major time zones around the world:
|UK||Sat, Mar. 11||14:15 GMT|
|Australia||Sun, Mar. 12||01:15 AEDT|
|Canada||Sat, Mar. 11||09:15 ET|
|New Zealand||Sun, Mar. 12||03:15 NZDT|
|USA||Sat, Mar. 11||09:15 ET|
|India||Sat, Mar. 11||19:45 IST|
|Singapore||Sat, Mar. 11||22:15 SGT|
|Malaysia||Sat, Mar. 11||22:15 MYT|
Italy vs Wales live stream, TV channel
Here is how to watch the match in some of the major territories:
|USA||—||fuboTV, Peacock, CNBC|
|UK||BBC One||BBC iPlayer|
|New Zealand||—||Sky Sport NOW|
|India||—||Premier Sports Asia|
|Hong Kong||—||Premier Sports Asia|
|Malaysia||—||Premier Sports Asia|
|Singapore||—||Premier Sports Asia|
USA: All games are streaming live on Peacock and will also be available through fuboTV. However, they will also be repeated on CNBC on delay, usually by a couple of hours.
Canada: All games are streaming live on DAZN.
UK: Matches will be shown on BBC and ITV, with S4C also broadcasting in Wales. BBC has the rights to this match.
Australia: Six Nations coverage is provided by Stan Sport.
India: Premier Sports Asia is the main place to watch the Six Nations.
MORE: Ireland hold off resilient Italy to move closer to Six Nations Grand Slam
Italy vs Wales confirmed lineups
Italy's hopes for this game, and next weekend's clash with Scotland, have been dealt the most bitter of blows with the news that star full-back Ange Capuozzo will miss the rest of the tournament through injury. Tommaso Allan, who started the first two games at fly-half, shifts to full-back in his place, with the remainder of their starting side unchanged.
Big day in blue for Tommaso Allan 🇮🇹#AwakenAnticipation | #ITAvWAL pic.twitter.com/heDT8Aag8O— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 9, 2023
Lorenzo Cannone had the game of his life against Ireland, making rampaging line-breaking runs like they were going out of fashion and barging through to set up Italy's first try. He retains his place at the base of the scrum, with his elder brother Niccolo packing down at lock.
Italy starting XV: Tommaso Allan, Edoardo Padovani, Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Menoncello, Pierre Bruno, Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fischetti, Giacomo Nicotera, Simone Ferrari, Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro, Lorenzo Cannone
Italy replacements: Luca Bigi, Federico Zani, Marco Riccioni, Edoardo Iachizzi, Giovanni Pettinelli, Manuel Zuliani, Alessandro Fusco, Luca Morisi
🔵#italrugby— Italrugby (@Federugby) March 9, 2023
Kieran #Crowley ha scelto il XV in campo per l'incontro con il Galles del @SixNationsRugby 2023 ➡ https://t.co/pNYcvlRE9W
📍Stadio Olimpico, Roma
🏉 Sabato 11/3, kick off h 15.15
📺 @SkySport 1 ▪ @NOWTV_It @TV8it pic.twitter.com/wltDfkE1m2
Warren Gatland's second stint in charge of Wales is only three games old, but he's made wholesale changes in each match of this year's tournament. At scrum-half, Rhys Webb starts for the first time in nearly three years, and his first in the Six Nations since 2017. Try-scorer in their last game Rees-Zammit drops to the bench alongside Tomos Williams, with Rio Dyer coming back in on the left edge.
⤴️ Returning to the starting line-up and scoring against Italy?— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 9, 2023
Rhys Webb has done it before ✅#AwakenAnticipation | #ITAvWAL pic.twitter.com/ANZJIK6dWh
Up front, veteran lock Alun Wyn Jones is rested, with Dafydd Jenkins coming into the second row, while Jac Morgan also returns to the side to pack down at blindside flanker, having played at number eight against Scotland. Wyn Jones is back at loosehead prop, with the rest of the XV otherwise unchanged.
Wales starting XV: Liam Williams, Josh Adams, Mason Grady, Joe Hawkins, Rio Dyer, Owen Williams, Rhys Webb; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Dafydd Jenkins, Jac Morgan, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau
Wales replacements: Scott Baldwin, Gareth Thomas, Dillon Lewis, Rhys Davies, Tommy Reffell, Tomos Williams, George North, Louis Rees-Zammit
🏴 The @WelshRugbyUnion side to take on the Italians 💪#AwakenAnticipation #GuinnessSixNations pic.twitter.com/CH62uJmUvH— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 9, 2023
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Italy vs Wales odds
It's a tantalisingly close call to pick a winner ahead of this game, and that's more than reflected by some of the bookmakers' picks. There's hardly a hair's breadth between the odds given for either side to win, with Bet MGM's the closest.
There are long odds available for a draw despite the potential for a close encounter, and brave punters may consider backing these teams to cancel each other out.