Warren Gatland relishing Wales’ wooden spoon decider against Italy

By Sports Desk March 10, 2024

Warren Gatland insists Wales will embrace the challenge of a wooden spoon decider against Italy after France inflicted a fourth successive defeat on them in the 2024 Guinness Six Nations.

France powered their way to a five-try 45-24 victory in Cardiff on Sunday as Wales were unable to stem a Les Bleus tide in a one-sided second half.

Wales have not finished bottom of the championship since losing all five games in 2003, but that is the prospect facing Gatland’s young side ahead of Saturday’s showdown against the Azzurri at Principality Stadium.

“It’s massive for us,” said head coach Gatland. “You’ve got to embrace it and not run away from the challenge. I’ve never done that.

“You can’t go into your shell and hide away. There’s going to be a lot of external pressure and expectation, and international rugby is always about that.

“We’ve got to front up, work hard next week and go and give a performance at home.”

Fifth-placed Italy have seven points to Wales’ three in the championship standings after beating Scotland 31-29 in Rome on Saturday.

It was Italy’s first Six Nations victory since winning in Cardiff two years ago, while Wales have lost 11 of their last 12 matches in the competition.

“Physically, they’re in pretty good shape in terms of competing at this level,” said Gatland after Wales had suffered a sixth straight defeat to France.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us and massive for them because they’ll be thinking that they can finish in their best possible position in the Six Nations with a good performance.

“For us, we definitely don’t want to finish at the bottom.”

Rio Dyer, Tomos Williams and Joe Roberts scored tries to give Wales a 24-20 lead at the start of the second half.

But Wales eventually wilted and shipping a record points total to France in Cardiff, with Gatland saying: “There were lots of parts of that game that were reasonably good.

“We were pretty happy with the first half. We targeted to play through phases and when we got over five or six phases, we were creating space and holes, and causing them problems.

“But we didn’t help ourselves with some easy turnovers and errors that we made that allowed them to wrestle back some momentum in the game.

“We were in front, we did look dangerous and created some opportunities and space.

“We’ve got to keep doing that and make sure we manage the game a little bit better in terms of those big moments.

“Unfortunately, we probably capitulated a little bit in the last 15 minutes.”

France conclude their Six Nations campaign against England in Lyon on Saturday and skipper Gregory Alldritt believes Les Bleus are in fine fettle heading into that contest.

Alldritt said: “For us it’s always a big game against England. We know that our big always expect a big crunch.

“We are going to a big recovery at the start of the week because it is a short week and then we are going to attack this game.

“England are showing some really good rugby at the moment, really tough defence as well, so it’s going to be a big challenge for the forwards.

“We hope to finish with a big performance and a win.”

Related items

  • Immobile, Locatelli and Verratti left out of new-look Italy squad for Euro 2024 Immobile, Locatelli and Verratti left out of new-look Italy squad for Euro 2024

    Ciro Immobile, Manuel Locatelli and Marco Verratti are among the big names to miss out on Italy's provisional squad for Euro 2024.

    Just 10 players who helped the Azzurri win the delayed Euro 2020 three years ago have been included in Luciano Spalletti's 30-man group, which will be trimmed down to 26 names after friendlies against Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina in early June.

    Immobile made Spalletti's first Italy squad last September but has missed out on a trip to Germany after scoring just seven Serie A goals this season.

    Verratti joined Immobile in starting Italy's Euro 2020 final victory over England, but he always looked unlikely to be included this year after swapping Paris Saint-Germain for Qatari side Al-Arabi.

    Last September, it was reported that Verratti turned down a call-up for Italy's first two Euro 2024 qualifiers under Spalletti to complete his move to Qatar.

    Locatelli is also excluded, having seen his international role diminished since the last Euros, but Juventus team-mate Nicolo Fagioli is included after serving a seven-month ban for breaching Italian gambling rules.

    Italy begin their Euro 2024 campaign against Albania on June 15, before taking on Spain and Croatia in their remaining Group B fixtures.

    They have the chance to replicate La Roja's feat of winning back-to-back editions of the Euros in 2008 and 2012, something no other team has ever accomplished. 

    Full 30-man squad: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain), Alex Meret (Napoli), Ivan Provedel (Lazio), Guglielmo Vicario (Tottenham), Francesco Acerbi (Inter), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Raoul Bellanova (Torino), Alessandro Buongiorno (Torino), Riccardo Calafiori (Bologna), Andrea Cambiaso (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Inter), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Federico Dimarco (Inter), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Giorgio Scalvini (Atalanta), Nicolo Barella (Inter), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Nicolo Fagioli (Juventus), Michael Folorunsho (Verona), Davide Frattesi (Inter), Jorginho (Arsenal), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Samuele Ricci (Torino), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma), Riccardo Orsolini (Bologna), Giacomo Raspadori (Napoli), Mateo Retegui (Genoa), Gianluca Scamacca (Atalanta), Mattia Zaccagni (Lazio).

  • Italy forward Zaniolo to miss Euro 2024 due to foot injury Italy forward Zaniolo to miss Euro 2024 due to foot injury

    Italy forward Nicolo Zaniolo will miss Euro 2024 after suffering a foot injury during Aston Villa's Premier League draw with Liverpool on Monday.

    Zaniolo – who joined Unai Emery's side on a season-long loan from Galatasaray last August – came on as a second-half substitute as they fought back from 3-1 down to clinch a 3-3 draw at Villa Park.

    That result moved Villa closer to securing Champions League qualification, which was confirmed when Tottenham lost 2-0 at home to Manchester City on Tuesday.

    Zaniolo only lasted 14 minutes following his 65th-minute introduction before being withdrawn himself, though, and scans have shown he sustained a microfracture to his foot.

    The 24-year-old has now confirmed he will be unable to feature in Italy's title defence at the Euros, with their Group B campaign set to begin against Albania on June 15.  

    In a post to his Instagram account, Zaniolo wrote: "Thank you for your support in these hours, to you Villans and to the many Italian and Turkish fans. I can't wait to get back on the field stronger than before!

    "Unfortunately, I will have to give up my dream of representing my country in a major competition. But that day will come, I'm sure, and it will be beautiful! Come on Azzurri!"

    Zaniolo also missed Italy's triumphant run at the delayed Euro 2020 three years ago as he was recovering from a ruptured cruciate ligament.

  • All Blacks captain Cane to retire from international rugby All Blacks captain Cane to retire from international rugby

    New Zealand captain Sam Cane has announced he will retire from international rugby at the end of 2024, having agreed a three-year contract with Japan Rugby League One team Tokyo Sungoliath.

    Cane made his All Blacks debut in 2012 and has represented his country 95 times, including through the team's triumphant run at the 2015 World Cup.

    The flanker succeeded Kieran Read as captain in 2020, though his most recent international outing ended with him suffering the ignominy of becoming the first man to be sent off in a Rugby World Cup final, as New Zealand were beaten by South Africa last year.

    Cane will be eligible to represent the All Blacks through the second half of 2024 after returning from an initial spell in Japan but will then head there permanently after New Zealand Rugby agreed to release him from his contract. 

    "A good opportunity came my way with Sungoliath willing to offer me a three-year contract," Cane said. "I had to weigh up everything and, in the end, with a young family it seemed like the best decision to help set us up for our future.

    "I had my time as captain and it was a huge honour and privilege. If I'm fortunate enough to be selected for the All Blacks this year then I'll still be myself. 

    "I love that team, and if part of my role is contributing leadership-wise, I'll be happy to support the new captain as best I can to help with a speedy transition."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.