Fixture in Focus 2019: Italy v Wales

Round 2 of the 2019 Six Nations will see Italy play their first home game of the Championship as they welcome Wales to the iconic Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Round 2 of the 2019 Six Nations will see Italy play their first home game of the Championship as they welcome Wales to the iconic Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

After beginning their campaign with a trip to BT Murrayfield to face Scotland, Conor O’Shea’s men will be able to enjoy home comforts, while Wales face a second consecutive away fixture following their opening-round visit to Paris.

The 2018 Six Nations saw the sides meet in a lively encounter at the Principality Stadium, which saw Hadleigh Parkes and George North score for the hosts, with Matteo Minozzi doing likewise for the Azzurri, all inside the first ten minutes.


Warren Gatland’s troops always kept their noses in front as a 17-7 half-time advantage eventually became a 38-14 bonus-point triumph, which kept Wales in pole position to secure second place in the table.

Matches between the two sides are often full of points and Italy will be keen to come out on the right side of the score line on February 9.   A BURGEONING RIVALRY

The two teams have met on 26 occasions since their first fixture in 1994 and it’s fair to say that Wales have dominated the rivalry to date.

Of those 26 games, 23 have ended in Welsh victory, with an 18-18 draw in Cardiff in 2006 and just two Italian wins.

But the Azzurri can take heart from the fact that not only have they run Wales close on a number of other occasions, but that both their victories have come in Rome – the site of the contest in the 2019 Championship.

The first of those was during the 2003 Six Nations, as the Azzurri won their second match in Championship history – and first since winning their opening clash against Scotland in 2000 – on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the Stadio Flaminio.

A dominant pack display starved Wales of possession and tries from Giampiero De Carli, Carlo Festuccia and Matthew Phillips proved enough to secure a 30-22 triumph that started the visitors’ journey to the wooden spoon.

Four years later, the Azzurri secured their other win in the fixture – one of two victories that saw them come fourth in the 2007 Championship – with a dramatic 23-20 triumph.

Thirteen unanswered points after the interval seemingly had the Welsh en route to victory but Mauro Bergamasco latched on to fly-half Ramiro Pez’s chip with two minutes remaining for the match-clinching try.

Wales do have plenty of positive memories in Rome to draw on however, as Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and George North crossed in the final 20 minutes to secure a 33-7 victory last time out.

Meanwhile, in 2015, North’s hat-trick gave them a shot at the title with a 61-20 victory in the first game of Super Saturday – although England and France eventually overhauled them in the table later that afternoon.

And perhaps most importantly, Gatland’s men have never lost at the Stadio Olimpico.   CAPITAL PLEASURES

Hundreds of books have been written about what to do in Rome – the Eternal City – so consider this list far from exhaustive but for those visiting the Italian capital for the first time, there are a few must-see sights.

First and foremost, we start with the Colosseum, the spectacular amphitheatre that serves as the precursor to modern sports stadia.

The largest structure that remains from Roman antiquity, the Colosseum is synonymous with Rome and its gladiatorial history.

After the Colosseum we switch countries to the Vatican City and all the delights that come with the world’s smallest state.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo’s masterpiece, and St Peter’s Basilica are the best-known sights but there are also works from the likes of Bernini, Botticelli and Raphael to admire.

Between the Colosseum and the Vatican is another of Rome’s most famous attractions: the Pantheon. This church, built on a former temple, is iconic thanks to its Corinthian columns while inside it features a rotunda under concrete dome with an oculus that opens to the sky.

For rugby fans trying to fit everything into a Six Nations weekend, that is already a fairly busy agenda.

However not far from the Pantheon it is worth heading to the Trevi Fountain, arguably the world’s most famous fountain, while the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona are also within walking distance.   THE STADIUM

Historic home of football teams Lazio and AS Roma, Italy moved into the Stadio Olimpico as a third permanent occupant in 2012.

With a capacity of more than 70,000 it’s a fitting venue for the Azzurri and, as the name suggests, was a key venue for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome – hosting the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletics competitions.

In terms of getting around Rome, there is no shortage of options on arrival by plane from Fiumicino airport, whether you want to take a taxi or a bus into the centre of town.

From there perhaps the best value travel option is the Roma Pass which combines free public transport for three days with entry into two museums or archaeological sites and concessionary tickets thereafter.

As well as the numerous taxis, there are both trams and buses that can take supporters to the Stadio Olimpico, in the north west of the city.

Line 2 on the tram stops at Mancini, just across the river from the ground, while the 32 bus and the 280 bus also stop near the ground. It is also easily accessible by car for those who are driving.