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Wales 23 Italy 15: a work in progress in spite of winning start

George North, the Wales wing, has acknowledged that his side must tighten up their game if they are to secure an historic RBS 6 Nations title hat trick.

Dan Lydiate and Luke Charteris combine to stop Italy's Luke McLean in his tracks. Picture: PA
Dan Lydiate and Luke Charteris combine to stop Italy's Luke McLean in his tracks. Picture: PA

The Welsh were beset by inconsistency during their opening match with Italy and registered a win with a performance which North later admitted "wasn't Plan A".

The afternoon had started well enough, but tries in the first half by wing Alex Cuthbert and centre Scott Williams flattered to deceive. The home side were out-scored 12-6 by Italy in the second half, with Michele Campagnaro's going over the line twice.

That performance has given North et al food for thought then, but it will also have increased the appetite of an Ireland side which won in Dublin yesterday. They now await a visit of the Welsh on Saturday and a match which could easily emulate the epic tussle between the two sides at the Aviva Stadium two years ago, when North's late try and a penalty from Leigh Halfpenny edged Wales to win by just two points.

"Ireland bring a different sort of challenge," said North. "There have been some great games in the past between us. Structurally, I think we were okay [against Italy]. We were in the right places at the right times, we just weren't as clinical as we were hoping to be.

"We have got to tighten up and for us it is about trying to put a whole performance together. I don't think we did that against Italy. We showed it in stages, but for us it is about tightening up our game and making sure we are the best we can be.

"Come Monday morning, it will be a tough old week leading into a big game next Saturday. There are two teams playing a similar brand of rugby, with firepower and a bit of flair as well."

A seventh successive victory over Italy will not live long in the memory of this Welsh team, although given their reputation of being relatively slow tournament starters they can at least be satisfied with a victory from their first encounter. Even if it did not come as easily as the home side might have hoped.

"It wasn't Plan A," North added. "From our point of view, we wanted to start with a bit more flair than that, but a win is a win. To be fair, Italy put up a good fight and negated us very well in certain areas. Sometimes it is better to start with a bit of a rough ride and come out with a win to show the boys' character."

Wales have been given extra days' rest, recovery and preparation this week since Ireland were in action yesterday. Warren Gatland, the Welsh coach, is due to announce a team tomorrow and it is thought that Gethin Jenkins - who has earned 101 caps as a prop - and Six Nations captain Sam Warburton could both return.

Warburton was afforded just 15 minutes against Italy when he came off the bench, his first appearance for his country since suffering a shoulder injury. It is likely he will be restored to the back row, with Justin Tipuric making way.

Jenkins, meanwhile, would take over from Paul James and Gatland has a further decision to make on whether or not he picks British and Irish Lions player Jonathan Davies, three months after he tore his pectoral muscle.

"It's a reasonable start for us and, the way Italy performed, I wouldn't be surprised if they won a few games in this competition," said Gatland. "It was tough and that's the way we wanted it. We know there are a few things for us to fix up on, in terms of making sure we're a little bit more accurate and clinical in time for next weekend."

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