Italy vs Wales: 'Early start is tough but we can still apply pressure,' says Jonathan Davies

The match kicks off at 12.30pm on Saturday

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The Independent Online

It has been described as Welsh rugby’s Rorke’s Drift and the principality has been in a frenzy ever since. But do not expect Jonathan Davies to get caught up in it all.

The Wales players were rightly lauded – so too the defence coach, Shaun Edwards – after the hosts survived wave after wave of Ireland attacks in Saturday’s 23-16 victory, while Davies was in the spotlight for the hand-off that flattened the often impenetrable Jonathan Sexton.

It is a moment that has been oft-mentioned to the Wales centre in the intervening days but not one that brings even a modicum of excitement from the player himself. “It’s part of the game,” Davies said. “People are more happy than me. It’s just a hand-off.”

Saturday at the Millennium Stadium was undeniably a masterclass in tackling – a Six Nations record of 250 tackles by Wales – but it has left bodies stricken in the aftermath. Both Samson Lee and Gethin Jenkins have been ruled out of Saturday’s game in Italy through injury, while at the team press conference on Tuesday captain Sam Warburton groaned in discomfort as he got in and out of his chair.

Despite an opening round defeat to England, Wales still have the opportunity to win a third Six Nations in four  years. Yet should results go their way, there will be no trophy for the Welsh to celebrate with – the original Six Nations trophy is at Twickenham where  England play France and a replica at Murrayfield for Scotland v Ireland.

“I’m sure we’ll find a trophy somewhere like a plastic cup or something,” said Davies in response to the lack of silverware on offer in Rome. “Obviously, people are doubting us and don’t think we’re going to be involved but we just worry about ourselves and put a  performance together that, hopefully, means we can get the cup on Sunday.”

Wales will effectively be playing Italy blind on Saturday lunchtime, having no idea what they need to do in terms of points difference to help their title ambitions, while the subsequent games give their title rivals a better prospect of overall victory as they will know what is at stake.

Davies is as unflappable as always on the scheduling mismatch of the games. “It’s an early kick-off, real early, and some of the boys won’t be happy getting out of bed but it doesn’t really bother me,” he said. “Playing last you know what you have to do but there’s pressure on you. Saturday we can go out, deliver a performance and, hopefully, sit back and watch the other teams not do so well.”

That will be done in a palace in the Roman hills where the players will sit down for the post-match dinner with their Italian counterparts. “I’m sure the phones will be checked for score updates but, hopefully, we can put ourselves in a position to put pressure on the opposition. It’s a tough ask but I think we can do it. We’ve reacted well in the past to certain situations like this. It’s an exciting time for us.”

The 26-year-old Clermont Auvergne centre makes the point that the other fixtures are not quite foregone conclusions, with France still capable of “turning up and doing a job” on England, while Ireland would do well to “fear the wounded animal” in Scotland.

Of Wales’ game plan, Davies said: “We’re going to have to take all our chances. As a back line, we haven’t fired as we’d have wanted to. The forwards have worked tirelessly all campaign for us and there’s pressure on us now, when we get these opportunities we have to take them. There’s  no excuses.”

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