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Pivac set to learn much more than from thumping Italians



Running show: Justin Tipuric was to the fore in opening win

Running show: Justin Tipuric was to the fore in opening win

Running show: Justin Tipuric was to the fore in opening win

You can't help wondering what, if anything, Wales have taken from their 42-0 thrashing of Italy.

It was a no-contest and a game which new coach Wayne Pivac will have learnt little in regard to his squad's ability to defend their Six Nations title when the playing field evens out that bit more.

The memories banked from playing the hapless Italians of Josh Adams' hat-trick, Dan Biggar's through-the-legs pass, Nick Tompkins running riot, Hadleigh Parkes having more time and space than he knew what to do with and Justin Tipuric ruling the roost will all count for little.

Well, Tipuric might well be relied upon to repeat some of his destructive work today in what will be a much more even contest in Dublin but, really, last Saturday's opening game of the tournament was an embarrassment in that the challenge laid down by Italy was non-existent.

Naturally, Pivac wanted the win but then he was always going to get it against Italy.

What the new coach needed was a competitive game which asked his squad questions as he bids to reshape the side and the playing style which has for so long been moulded in Warren Gatland's image.

Indeed, this week has seemed strange as usually there would have been some curve-ball comment thrown out there by Gatland in the direction of Joe Schmidt just to ramp up the tension a bit.

We'd got so used to it but all is now quiet on that front. You almost miss Gatland's merciless winding-up of Ireland.

Like Andy Farrell, Pivac needs to put his own stamp on how Wales are now going to evolve but, unlike his opposing coach today, there has been no need to find any 'true grit' moments to bond the squad even more closely to their new boss.

It's very early days of course for Pivac and, in fairness, Alun Wyn Jones and his players know plenty about digging out wins.

True, but these are still challenging times as the players readjust to a new voice, and coaching team, guiding them after the lengthy Gatland era and its high achievement of three Grand Slams, four Six Nations Championships and two World Cup semi-finals.

Pivac has, hardly surprisingly, opted to retain the vast majority of the side which so handily saw off the Italians, with Tompkins rightly getting his first start at outside centre while North moves out to the more familiar territory of the wing.

This is where Pivac will be hoping Wales have a clear edge in terms of attacking with Tompkins' creativity helping find space both for the player himself and the also attack-minded back three of Adams, North and Leigh Halfpenny.

The coach's minimalist call over selection means that the Welsh pack is unchanged and the former Scarlets coach probably rightly reckons that the back-row combination of Aaron Wainwright, Tipuric and Taulupe Faletau looks a much more balanced and potentially dynamic trio than the one wearing green.

Some surgery, though, has been done to the bench and there lurks a certain Gareth Davies who can do damage.

Whether the Welsh set-piece is going to discomfort Ireland remains to be seen and another question mark is attached to their defensive structure in the now post-Shaun Edwards world.

Whatever the outcome, Pivac will soon know much more about the new journey he and his squad are on than was the case seven days ago.

Belfast Telegraph