Six Nations 2014: Wales must put down a marker against Italy, says Richard Hibbard


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The Independent Online

Richard Hibbard wants Wales to learn from their poor start to last year's tournament when they launch their bid for an unprecedented Six Nations title hat-trick.

Wales are red-hot favourites against visitors Italy but they endured a dreadful opening 40 minutes to last season's tournament as Ireland built a victory platform in Cardiff. Hibbard and company then reeled off four successive wins, culminating in a record 30-3 triumph against England that secured the silverware.

"We had one bad half in the entire tournament last year, so we definitely can't start like that again," the hooker said. "It was an accumulation of things last year. We had lost seven games on the bounce and there was a lot of pressure building. But after that [Ireland game] we didn't concede another try for the rest of the tournament."

Sterner tests lie ahead, notably in Dublin on Saturday week and at Twickenham in early March. Hibbard believes this weekend is a chance to put down an early marker.

"We want to go out, do our best and really get our show on the road and let everyone stand back and think 'Wales are here'," he said. "I am excited about the start but it will be a tough, physical game.

"The Italian pack is extremely experienced. They have been around the block a few times, and they have their talisman [captain Sergio Parisse] back, which is key for them."

He added: "We could become one of the greatest teams of all, and I think it is do-able. With the squad we have got here, it is definitely possible. The boys are really excited by the challenge.

"But it is like anybody who is on top, everyone is coming after you, aren't they? So we have got to be especially focused and make sure we win every game. They [the Wales coaches] want us to be comfortable at the top. That is when we will start beating the southern hemisphere teams and winning other things apart from the Six Nations."