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Hibbard aiming to put down marker

Richard Hibbard wants Wales to make an immediate statement of intent when they launch their bid for an unprecedented RBS 6 Nations title hat-trick on Saturday.

Wales, beaten just once in the last 10 Six Nations games, are red-hot favourites against Millennium Stadium visitors Italy.

Sterner tests await, notably against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday week and England at Twickenham in early March, but Wales hooker Hibbard believes this weekend is a chance to put down an early marker.

"We want to go out, do our best and really get our show on the road and let everyone stand back and think 'Wales are here'," he said.

"I am excited about the start, but it will be a tough physical game.

"The Italian pack is extremely experienced. They have been around the block a few times, and they have their talisman (captain Sergio Parisse) back, which is key for them."

Wales endured a dreadful opening 40 minutes to last season's Six Nations as Ireland built a victory platform in Cardiff, but Hibbard and company then reeled off four successive wins, culminating with a record 30-3 triumph against England that secured silverware.

"We had one bad half in the entire tournament last year, so we definitely can't start like that again," he added.

"It was an accumulation of things last year. We had lost seven games on the bounce and there was a lot of pressure building. But after that (Ireland game) we didn't concede another try for the rest of the tournament.

"We had the conversation last week (about a possible title hat-trick). We addressed it.

"We could become one of the greatest teams of all, and I think it is do-able. With the squad we have got here, it is definitely possible. The boys are really excited by the challenge.

"But it is like anybody who is on top, everyone is coming after you, aren't they? So, we have got to be especially focussed and make sure we win every game.

"They (Wales coaches) want us to be comfortable at the top. That is when we will start beating the southern-hemisphere teams and winning other things apart from the Six Nations.

"We have got to start being comfortable there, being the team everyone wants to beat. It's a good place to be, really.

"I feel comfortable with it. Knowing that everyone is coming after us gives you that little bit of fear, and it is always great to play with a bit of fear.

"I think all the northern-hemisphere teams can take something from the autumn Tests this season, They all did pretty well, but the Six Nations is different again. It is a tournament, and you have to win."

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