Williams backs Wales’ selection shake-up

Liam Williams has backed Wales head coach Warren Gatland’s selection approach to the Guinness Six Nations clash against Italy on Saturday.

Gatland made 12 changes to his starting line-up for last season’s corresponding fixture in Cardiff, and Wales launched an ongoing 10-game unbeaten run by beating the Azzurri 38-14.

This time round, it is 10 switches, with full-back Williams among only five starting survivors from the team that wiped out a 16-point deficit seven days ago to beat France 24-19.

Wales prepared for the Rome encounter with a 31-man training group during five days on the Cote d’Azur earlier this week, with Gatland utilising his squad at the start of a World Cup year.

Asked if 10 changes could be a potential risk to continuity, Williams said: “No, I don’t think so. I think it’s great.

“We have so much competition up for grabs in each position, and it’s great for us looking forward to the World Cup.

“That might be one of the reasons why Warren has changed the team. I think we will be fine at the weekend, and hopefully we will get the win.”

Recent history between Italy and Wales suggests that the visitors could enjoy a points blitz.

In the countries’ last four Six Nations games, Wales have racked up a total of 199 points, with two of their four victories seeing them score more than 60 points.

They are also on a 12-Test winning run at Italy’s expense, but Saracens star Williams has urged caution.

“We know Italy are a tough team to play against at home,” he added.

“In the last couple of times we’ve played in Rome it has been very tight in the first half and then we’ve pulled away in the second half and won the game comfortably.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made 10 changes to face Italy (David Davies/PA)

“We have to play for 80 minutes. Against France we played very poorly in the first half and were much better in the second. This week we need to play for the full 80.

“Our first job is to go out there and play well as a team. If the opportunities to score four tries arise, then we have to take them.

“That is especially important in international rugby. What will be will be, but we will do our best to get one (bonus point).

“Four years ago we came out to Italy and we were winning by a point at half time, and then we went out and scored 47 points in the second half.

“I don’t think that statistic of them not winning for a long time is going to make a big difference to the game.

“Italy played very well in the second half against Scotland and came back right at the end. That shows once again that we have to play for 80 minutes, and not 40.”

- Press Association

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