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Evans retains trophy hopes

Ian Evans has underlined Wales' desire to keep their hands on the RBS 6 Nations trophy this season.

The title holders bounced back from an opening weekend home defeat against Ireland by claiming a first victory over France in Paris for eight years. And if they can produce another winning display at the expense of Italy in Rome on Saturday then it would ensure that pressure is maintained on championship leaders and current title favourites England.

Wales host England on March 16 in what could be a championship decider, and Evans said: "If everything progresses the way we hope it will, it could all come down to the last game. But we have got to take it step by step."

He added: "You can't win a Grand Slam every year. The bottom line is to try to come away with the trophy and try to represent ourselves to a high standard.

"If Italy can get their tails up in the first 20 minutes, they can be a great team with their confidence up. The first 20 minutes are always key. They are a passionate team, and if we can take that sting out of it, especially up front, hopefully we can stick to our game plan.

"People give Italy a lot of disrespect, but when you play them in Rome they are a very good team. Speaking from a regional rugby point of view, you go to Treviso and they are a very tough team to beat. They deserve your respect."

Wales have come unstuck on two previous Six Nations visits to Rome, losing in 2003 and 2007, but they start as firm favourites, especially as the Azzurri are without their suspended skipper and best player Sergio Parisse.

Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni takes over leadership duties, while coach Jacques Brunel has reacted to the comprehensive defeat against Scotland last time out by dropping half-backs Luciano Orquera and Tobias Botes.

Italy will also find themselves in opposition to a Wales defence that accomplished the not insignificant feat of shutting out France a fortnight ago.

"I would like to be the team that concedes the least tries in this competition," Wales assistant coach and defence specialist Shaun Edwards said. "If we can do that it would be the third time in six years we have done it. It is a big ask because we are up against some big opponents, but that is the target."


From Belfast Telegraph