A twisted ankle and a Wales victory are the souvenirs of my first trip to Rome, and though I had to steer clear of the cobbled streets as I hobbled around last night, it could have been worse. The banner on our changing-room wall, next to the Wales flags stuck up to make us feel at home, read: "Be prepared to suffer". We did that, but probably in ways we never intended.
Good teams win when not everything goes well, and that is how we are treating this result. My view of Tom Shanklin's try to seal the game was not the one I would have liked. A few minutes beforehand I'd been stamped on as I followed up a move by our threequarters. Just one of those accidental things which happens and I could have stayed on, but the coaches decided to substitute me as a precaution. Boot off, ice on – it was just bruised, not a sprain – and I was sitting near the touchline as our forwards turned Italy over nicely on a restart and James Hook put Shanks through. It reminded me of one of our tries in England last year, except this time I wasn't there to score it!
A lot of the talk will be about the changes Warren Gatland made for this match, and he said himself there was an element of risk. I'd say that it was a great tribute to Wales that we won after those nine changes. You saw me kicking a lot downfield, and that's our style. Kicking it out is always the last resort for us. What happened in the first half is we took a couple of wrong options when Italy ran or kicked the ball back at us. We did not have much of a platform to attack from, apart from the odd line-out and, in the last 10 minutes, the restart which led to Shanks's try.
Gavin Henson's contribution to Shane Williams's try in the first half showed his vision, as he flashed to the left. Shane normally likes to run them in from further out, but he wasn't complaining. It's a mark of how Gav plays that he puts people in for tries rather than nab them for himself. I know he's let himself down on one or two occasions off the field but we have all made mistakes at some time in our lives. On the field he has got everything. On another occasion there was a hole begging for me to go through off Shane's pass, but an Italian hand deflected it. Sometimes it goes like that.
But by the skin of our teeth we completed a nice little win double – well, a win-place double – for me and a few of the other boys in the squad. I wasn't there in person, but plenty of us had money on Stephen Jones's horse Ski Sunday at Cheltenham during the week, and we were chuffed when it came in second. Regan King's a joint owner with Steve (pictured below), so it's really a Scarlets concern, but I didn't mind setting regional rivalry aside for this one. Not at 20-1.
Warren's message for the rugby was clear: it was up to the boys selected to take their chances and prove a point. Hooky put over a couple of great pressure kicks. The line-out went well enough, and Shanks has had a good Six Nations and will hope to be selected from the start when Ireland come to Cardiff next week. We will be absolutely determined to finish on a high; there is a Triple Crown and an outside chance of the Champion-ship to go for and we'll be in front of our own fantastic support again. Yes, things could be worse.Reuse content