Pivac reveals attacking game plan against Italy

Wayne Pivac speaks to the media ahead of the game 5/2/2022
Wayne Pivac has flooded his Wales backline with attacking players in a bid to ensure his side are more clinical against Italy, as they aim for a top-three finish in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations.

Wayne Pivac has flooded his Wales backline with attacking players in a bid to ensure his side are more clinical against Italy, as they aim for a top-three finish in the 2022 Guinness Six Nations.

Wales lost 13-9 at home to France in Round 4 and last year’s winners are back in action at Principality Stadium against the Azzurri in the first game on Super Saturday, with New Zealander Pivac making seven changes.

Alun Wyn Jones returns to the second row for his 150th cap with captain Dan Biggar bringing up his own century from fly-half.

But there are plenty of changes in and round the skipper, with scrum-half Gareth Davies, centre Uilisi Halaholo, full-back Johnny McNicholl and wing Louis Rees-Zammit all handed starting roles.

Pivac said: “We want to attack. We want to create scoring opportunities which we did against France, four or five times, which we’ve been through in the review process.

“We weren’t clinical enough. We want to continue that theme of creating chances but we want to make sure we make good decisions and finish teams off when we get into that position.

“Certainly they [the players coming in] are attacking players and they deserve an opportunity. Johnny McNicholl played well at full-back in the autumn.

“Willis Halaholo has had the unfortunate Covid incident and hamstring injury in this tournament so things haven’t gone his way, but he’s been very patient and worked hard behind the scenes and we think he deserves an opportunity, so we want to learn more about Willis in a starting jersey.”

Centre Nick Tompkins returns from concussion but must make do with a spot on the bench where there is also a place among the replacements for Bristol Bears No.10 Callum Sheedy.

Pivac said: “We want to give Willis an opportunity, so Nick will come into the game at some stage and we will see how it pans out with Owen [Watkin] and Willis where Nick ends up.

“We see Nick as being a form 12 prior to the head knock. He hasn’t trained a lot. Today was his first day.”

A bonus-point win would leave Wales with a strong chance of leaping from fifth to third in the Championship and Pivac said he trusted his wider squad to get the job done after also mixing things up front in the forwards.

He said: “We would love to [finish third]. It would be a great way to finish. We’ve got to get a job done on Saturday, and then we will sit and wait and see how the other results go.

“Mathematically, there is an opportunity to do that, and we will certainly be trying to do our bit by getting the win at home.”

Dewi Lake gets his first start for Wales at hooker with Dillion Lewis also coming into the front row for Tomas Francis on the tighthead side.

Will Rowlands had impressed in the engine room in the absence of Jones, who is back having recovered from shoulder surgery, and his coach insists the lock is still highly valued despite missing out on a starting shirt this time around.

“I certainly told him he hasn’t been dropped,” explained Pivac.

“He has got a different role this week. We talk around three roles – either starting the match, finishing the match and adding impact, or role number three, which no-one really wants, you are there to prepare the side as best you can to go and get a result.

“He has played well and had a lot of rugby this season. On this occasion, he will finish, as opposed to start, and he understands that.

“He’s going to finish the game and he’ll play a role sometime after half-time, maybe before then. It’s one of them where we looked at Will and Adam (Beard).

“Both have played virtually every minute of the campaign so far and had big workloads coming into the tournament. Adam runs our attacking lineout and Will’s been running the defensive lineout.

“Alun Wyn will take over that and we’ll see what we do with Will in the second half.”