Wales captain Jones warns against taking Italy lightly

·2-min read
Italy respect - Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones said on Friday there is no danger his Grand Slam-chasing side will take perennial Six Nations strugglers Italy lightly in Rome this weekend.

Many pundits regard Saturday's match in Rome as a foregone conclusion given Italy are on a run of 30 successive defeats in the competition dating back to 2015.

Jones' men have won their past 15 games against the Azzurri and another victory would leave them just 80 minutes away from a potential Grand Slam ahead of their trip to France next weekend.

Wales have already seen off Ireland, Scotland and champions England.

"Historically, Italy get better throughout the competition," Jones said.

"We've seen how dangerous they can be in their nine-10 axis, their forwards have troubled some teams, and it is very easy to slip when potentially everyone outside is saying what you can and could do.

"So we have guarded upon that and are focusing on those things that are very clear and prominent in the improvements the Italian side have shown."

Wales won just three games in 2021 as new head coach Wayne Pivac endured a rocky start to his time in charge after succeeding Warren Gatland, a fellow New Zealander.

But Pivac said his focus during the Autumn Nations Cup in particular was on developing new talent ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, with Louis Rees-Zammit, Callum Sheedy and James Botham brought into the Test set-up.

And veteran lock Jones, the world's most-capped international, believes the former Scarlets boss's policy is now paying dividends.

"The mission statement from Wayne in the autumn was that people would get opportunities," said the 35-year-old, who has amassed a total of 155 caps representing both Wales and the British and Irish Lions.

"You look at Callum Sheedy, James Botham, these guys who have had an opportunity and are fixtures in the squad.

"These guys come in wanting to prove a point, and when they do that it brings everyone along. Those new faces can do that, and we are fortunate they have."

jdg/jw/iwd