Wales who are happy to exchange party pieces for points for style for substance

Fly-half Dan Biggar happy with the new pragmatic approach adopted by champions

Stadio Olimpico

The great entertainers have become the pragmatists of Europe after Wales abandoned the beautiful game to win at all costs. Adventure and excitement have been replaced by measure and efficiency, although the compromise could yet deliver a second successive Six Nations title against all odds after Saturday's 26-9 victory over Italy here.

It is a dramatic departure from the spirit of Welsh rugby and what the natives back home will think has yet to be seen, given Wales will play the third of three successive away games against Scotland on 9 March. Welsh rugby has been reared on will-o'-the- wisp talents such as Cliff Morgan, Barry John and Phil Bennett and revelled in Grand Slams.

Their brand of "total rugby" cut a swathe in 2005, Shane Williams was at his side-stepping best in 2008 while the force of nature that is George North, Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert were too strong last year.Now it is the unfashionable grafters who are lauded for their effort and sheer bloody-mindedness, with Ryan Jones, Toby Faletau and Adam Jones the new heroes.

But if necessity is the mother of all invention then desperation is surely its grandparent. The change was born from the pain and frustration of eight defeats in a row and results are helping the heeling process.

Fly-half Dan Biggar said: "It's no good playing well and losing because you don't get anything from that. You may be entertaining people but internally you get very little from it. Once you've got that solid base with a couple of wins, it's important to push on and get more. "

During that nine months of misery were four defeats to Australia by a combined losing margin of 12 points, and Wales simply grew sick and tired of glorious failure. The usual Welsh response to adversity is revert to type, throw the ball around with abandon and hope for the best, as they almost did against Ireland after digging themselves into an almighty hole.

But needs must and having come under intense scrutiny amid the continued defeats, interim head coach Rob Howley, is content to win ugly.

Just as in Paris two weeks earlier, there was nothing pretty about this victory in a torrential downpour in Italy but Wales rolled up their sleeves to reign in Rome. They obliterated Italy's scrum, defended manfully and scored from the few chances on offer, thanks to Biggar.

The 23-year-old has had to wait for his opportunity in the No 10 jersey and is demonstrating that patience on the field. He offers control, plays the percentages, as he did for Jonathan Davies' try, and can fire a scoring pass as he did to Cuthbert.

He said: "It's difficult enough to win in Italy but the wind and the rain in the first half was torrential. It was always going to be about sticking to the game-plan rather than giving a 10 out of 10 performance but we got the win, which is all that matters. It's important that we can win when we're not playing 100 per cent and that's what we've done the last few weeks, so we're in a good place right now."

Given that this weekend witnessed Pope Benedict give his last Sunday address at St Peter's Church and the most important general election in a generation, this result barely registered in Italy. But Wales proved to the rest of Europe, and particularly England, they are not about to give up their title as readily as Il Papa.

 



Wales are a tough team to beat. They have not conceded a try in 200 minutes of rugby, to the unbridled delight of defence coach Shaun Edwards, and have won six of their last seven away games in the Championship. At this rate, Wales will prefer not to play in the pressure-cooker of the Millennium Stadium. The next time they do, against England, on March 16, it could yet be for the title.

Gethin Jenkins is struggling to recover from a recurrence of a chronic calf problem that flared up again, so Paul James is on stand-by for Murrayfield. Alun Wyn Jones could well relieve Andrew Coombs after his successful comeback although Sam Warburton, another to return from injury, is unlikely to start given the form of Justin Tipuric and leadership qualities demonstrated by Jones.

However, as long as Wales have Leigh Halfpenny, man of the match for the second game in a row, they possess a match-winner, according to Barry John: "One player doesn't make a team but he can make a difference. Halfpenny is basically what Gareth Bale is to Tottenham and the Wales football team, and their respective managers must be thrilled to be able to call upon such huge talents. He's only 24 but he is already a master of his craft."

Scorers: Italy: Penalties Burton 3. Wales: Tries J Davies, Cuthbert; Conversions Halfpenny 2; Penalties Halfpenny 4.

Replacements: Italy Garcia for G Canale, 63; Botes for Gori, 65; De Marchi for Lo Cicero, 54; Giazzon for Ghiraldini, 54; Cittadini for Castrogiovanni, 70; Geldenhuys for Minto, 54; Derbyshire for Favaro, 69. Wales S Williams for Roberts, 71; Hook for Biggar, 68; L Williams for Phillips, 63; James for Jenkins, 45; Owens for Hibbard, 51; Mitchell for A Jones, 73; A Jones for Coombs, 51; Warburton for R Jones, 68.

Referee R Poite (France). Attendance 73,526.

Suggested Topics
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Sport
Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal
footballLIVE: Follow all the latest from tonight's Capital One quarter-finals
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Scandi crush: Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

Th Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn