Wales are facing another testing examination of their RBS 6 Nations title credentials today at the Stadio Flaminio, mindful of the humiliation that haunted their last trip to Rome.
They were beaten 30-22 by Italy two years ago and the Azzurri’s impressive performance against Ireland last weekend provided ample evidence Wales could endure another embarrassing defeat.
Mike Ruddock’s hopes of fielding an unchanged side after the 11-9 victory over England were dashed when Dafydd Jones was ruled out with a groin injury, allowing Jonathan Thomas to take over in the back row.
Wales have never won their opening two matches since the championship went from five nations to six in 2000, while the challenge for Italy was to prove their heroics against the Irish were not just a one-off.
The Azzurri also made one change to their starting line-up when Gonzalo Canale was ruled out after sustaining a shoulder injury during training on Wednesday, with Walter Pozzebon coming at outside centre.
Italy: De Marigny, M. Bergamasco, Pozzebon, Masi, Nitoglia, Orquera, Troncon, Lo Cicero, Ongaro, Castrogiovanni, Dellape, Bortolami, Persico, M. Bergamasco, Parisse. Replacements: Intoppa, Perugini, Del Fava, Dal Maso, Griffen, Barbini, Robertson.
Wales: G. Thomas, Luscombe, Shanklin, Henson, S. Williams, S. Jones, Peel, Jenkins, Davies, A. Jones, Cockbain, Sidoli, J. Thomas, M. Williams, Owen. Replacements: McBryde, Yapp, Gough, Sowden-Taylor, Cooper, Sweeney, Morgan.
Referee: A Cole (Australia)