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Jonathan Davies urging Wales to hit the ground running

 

Big honour: Wales’ Jonathan Davies is thrilled to have been handed armband
Big honour: Wales’ Jonathan Davies is thrilled to have been handed armband

By Andrew Baldock

Captain Jonathan Davies has stressed the importance of Wales making a fast start in today's Guinness Six Nations clash against Italy.

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And victory in his first game as Wales skipper would extend 60th birthday celebrations for Davies' father.

Davies' parents watched Wales beat France in Paris last week before travelling through Switzerland on the Glacier Express, and then heading to Rome.

"My dad was 60 on Tuesday, so they went from Paris through Switzerland on the Glacier Express," Davies said. "I think they have had a great week.

"They have been a massive part of where I am today, so to have my family and loved ones out here is just great."

Davies leads a side showing 10 changes from the France game as Wales protect a 12-match unbeaten record against Italy.

The Azzurri, meanwhile, have not won a Six Nations Test on home soil since 2013, while their last victory in the tournament came four years ago.

Davies added: "It is important we start well. We can't give Italy opportunities to get into the game. We are looking to start fast and keep going. The week has been great, and the boys are excited.

"They (Italy) always come out pretty fast, so it is about managing that start. It is about keeping to what we have worked on over the last few weeks, build momentum and pressure, and hopefully that hard work we put in at the start will pay off."

A Wales win would make it 11 in a row against all opponents, equalling their all-time record run set between 1907 and 1910.

And Davies will be at the helm this weekend after taking over leadership duties from lock Alun Wyn Jones, who is among Wales' replacements at Stadio Olimpico.

"It is a huge honour, but any time you put on the red jersey of Wales it is an honour in itself," Davies said.

"There is added responsibility, but it is something I am looking forward to. I am very fortunate with the players we have - they know the standards needed.

"For me, it is making sure boys are in a good frame of mind, and know what we want to achieve."

Wales have arrived in Rome straight from a training camp on the Cote d'Azur, and there are opportunities for several players to make an impact at the start of this World Cup year.

Wasps flanker Thomas Young and Leicester wing Jonah Holmes both make Six Nations debuts, with Young emulating his father - former Wales prop Dai Young - in representing Wales on the tournament's stage.

Centre Owen Watkin, scrum-half Aled Davies and flanker Aaron Wainwright are also among those looking to take a chance handed to them by Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

"We had 31 players in Nice, so it is giving everyone an opportunity to show what they have," Davies said.

"Looking at last year, there were a similar amount of changes, and so there is that pressure and responsibility of the group who will play here to make sure we deliver a performance to build momentum after last week."

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