Gower warns Italy of wounded Wales team

Italy outside-half Craig Gower has warned the Azzurri to beware a wounded Wales in their Six Nations international at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

A shock win for Scotland away to Ireland on Saturday, the final day of the 2010 Six Nations, would condemn the losers of the Cardiff clash to the dreaded wooden spoon.

Finishing last would represent a huge climbdown for Wales, who only two years ago swept all before them with a Grand Slam.

But Australia-born stand-off Gower is expecting a gruelling encounter against a Wales side who go into this match on the back of a 27-12 loss away to Tripe Crown contenders Ireland.

“I don’t think Wales are vulnerable,” former Australia rugby league international Gower said after Azzurri coach Nick Mallett unveiled his side on Thursday.

“They will come out firing and it will be a big challenge for us.”

Although this has been another tough Six Nations for Italy, their 16-12 victory over winless basement side Scotland in Rome last month apart, Gower believes the side are making progress and becoming less reliant on a pack much praised for its scrummaging ability.

“We have changed from being a forward-based team; I don’t want to give the ball away all the time but you have to be smart about the way you play and my job is to make it work, getting us in the right positions and playing a little bit,” Gower explained.

“We are building as a team and we want to start getting results away from Rome.”

Italy though conceded six tries last time out against tournament leaders France, who will win a Grand Slam if they beat England in Paris on Saturday.

But what threatened to be an utterly lopsided rout was checked by some enterprising Italian play although the Azzurri still lost by the convincing margin of 46-20.

“We defended well in Australia and New Zealand last summer and France was a bit of a shock because we had not conceded many tries before that,” said Gower.

“France are pretty good all over the park.”

Earlier Mallett announced four personnel changes and one positional switch to his side but was later forced to leave out flanker Paul Derbyshire and lock Carlo Del Fava, who’d impressed off the bench against France, after the duo suffered muscular injuries while training on Thursday.

Their places were taken by Josh Sole and Marco Bortolami respectively.

In the backs, right wing Kaine Robertson and scrum-half Pablo Canavosio, who scored a try after replacing Tito Tebaldi in a lively display against France, were both handed starting spots.

Meanwhile, Andrea Masi has moved to outside centre in a rejigged back division.

Former South Africa coach Mallett had previously fielded the same starting line-up for the matches against England, Scotland and France.

Victory this weekend would see the Azzurri leapfrog their hosts but Italy have never beaten Wales in Cardiff and their last visit, two years ago, ended in a record 47-8 defeat.

Italy (15-1) Luke McLean; Kaine Robertson, Andrea Masi, Gonzalo Garcia, Mirco Bergamasco; Craig Gower, Pablo Canavosio; Alessandro Zanni, Mauro Bergamasco, Josh Sole; Quintin Geldenhuys, Marco Bortolami; Martin Castrogiovanni; Leonardo Ghiraldini (capt), Salvatore Perugini

Replacements: Fabio Ongaro, Matias Aguero, Valerio Bernabo, Manoa Vosawai, Tito Tebaldi, Riccardo Bocchino, Gonzalo Canale

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