Match Preview


George North
Italy travel to Cardiff with history on their minds, knowing that victory over Wales could secure their best-ever Guinness Men’s Six Nations finish.

The Azzurri got the better of Scotland in Rome last weekend to end an 11-year wait for a home win in the Championship and now look for more success at Principality Stadium.

Their last trip to the Welsh capital was a memorable one, Ange Capuozzo’s stunning break set up Edoardo Padovani for a match-winning try, establishing Capuozzo as a budding superstar.

A broken finger will keep Capuozzo out this time around, but Italy have built back-three depth and are brimming with confidence after a draw and a win in their last two games.

Wales, meanwhile, have lost all four matches this Championship, narrow losses to Scotland and England coupled with heavier defeats to Ireland and most recently, France.

That should not come as a huge surprise, given Warren Gatland’s decision to put his faith in youth this campaign.

Still, you have to go back 21 years for the last time Wales failed to win a game in the Championship.

They will be desperate to avoid matching the class of 2003, not least because George North – one of the last remaining players from the golden generation that won two Grand Slams and two more Championships in the 2010s – will bring the curtain down on his remarkable international career after this game.


The game will be shown live on BBC One, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website with kick-off at 2.15pm. For those who want Welsh language commentary, the game will also be broadcast on S4C and S4C online. Fans in Ireland can watch on RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Player.


Warren Gatland has made four changes from the side that was beaten by France, including a new-look midfield.

George North returns for his final international appearance, and he will line up at outside centre alongside Nick Tompkins, with the duo preferred to Owen Watkin and Joe Roberts.

The rest of the backline is the same, but up front, Alex Mann comes back at blindside flanker, meaning that skipper Dafydd Jenkins shifts back into the second row and Will Rowlands drops to the bench.

The final change sees Dillon Lewis start at tighthead prop, opening up a space for the uncapped Harri O’Connor on the bench.

Italy have made three changes of their own. Lorenzo Pani comes in for the injured Capuozzo at full-back, while Stephen Varney is restored to the starting line-up at scrum-half as Martin Page-Relo slots in with the replacements.

Last, but not least, Lorenzo Cannone is back into the starting XV at No.8 as Ross Vintcent returns to the bench.

KEY BATTLE – George North v Ignacio Brex

For his final Test appearance, it is fitting that George North will be facing Italy. They are the team he has enjoyed the most success against, scoring 11 of his 49 Test tries against the Azzurri.

Having missed out against France, North will be determined to bow out on a high, and the chance to reach a half-century of international tries is a big one for the active men’s player with the most international tries. North could also equal Brian O’Driscoll’s all-time record for tries in the Championship. To do so, he needs a hat-trick to move level with the Ireland great on 26.

He comes up against Ignacio Brex, Player of the Match for the Azzurri against Scotland and one of Italy’s best players in this campaign.

Alongside Tommaso Menoncello, his Benetton teammate, Brex has been part of a formidable centre pairing, causing opposition midfields plenty of problems. His head-to-head with North is an intriguing contrast in styles that should be well worth a watch.


Retiring Wales centre George North: “It’s not been an easy decision for me, although it feels like the right time and it’s the best thing for me and my family,” he admitted.

“I’ve been very fortunate to live a dream not many people get to do. And to be able to do it at home in front of a sold-out stadium with my family around me seems like the best way for me to start my next chapter.”

Italy head coach Gonzalo Quesada: “We have a really tough match awaiting us on Saturday. We will be in Cardiff, in a full stadium against a Wales team that will be hungry for points, desperate to win and saying goodbye to one of their best players in recent years: George North. We need to be careful because in almost every game, they have been in the game against their opponents: in particular in the second half against Scotland and the first hour against England and France.


  • Italy won their most recent Test match against Wales in Cardiff (22-21 in March 2022), their first-ever away win against Wales in what was their 17th such encounter (D1 L15 previously) – at the time, it was Italy’s first win in the Guinness Men’s Six Nations since 2015 and ended a run of 36 straight defeats in the Championship.

  • Wales have lost each of their last six Guinness Men’s Six Nations home matches, their longest-ever losing run on home soil in the Five/Six Nations.

  • Italy have avoided defeat in their last two Guinness Men’s Six Nations matches (W1 D1), the first time they have done so since winning two across the 2012 and 2013 campaigns. However they have never avoided defeat in three consecutive Championship matches.

  • George North is one try away from scoring his 50th in Test rugby (47 for Wales, 2 for British & Irish Lions), and three tries away from Brian O’Driscoll’s Six Nations try-scoring record (26). His nine tries against Italy in the Championship are the joint most by any player against a single team (equal with Shane Williams who scored nine against both Italy and Scotland).


At just 12.2 stars, and with his record against Italy, George North feels like an obvious inclusion, while Tommy Reffell is more expensive at 14.6 stars, but also has the most turnovers of any player this campaign.

The returning Alex Mann has two tries to his name already and could be a value pick at just 10.3 stars.

For Italy, Tommaso Menoncello is still just 12.8 stars, a bargain price for a player who looks a budding superstar and is Italy’s second top-scorer in the entire game.

And skipper Michele Lamaro is barely any more expensive at 12.9 stars, not bad for the Championship’s top tackler, who also has the most dominant tackles.


Wales: 15 Cameron Winnett; 14 Josh Adams; 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins; 11 Rio Dyer; 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Tomos Williams; 1⁠ ⁠Gareth Thomas, 2 Elliot Dee, 3 Dillon Lewis; 4 Dafydd Jenkins (c), 5 Adam Beard; 6 Alex Mann, 7 Tommy Reffell, 8 Aaron Wainwright

Replacements: 16 Evan Lloyd, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Harri O’Connor, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Ioan Lloyd, 23 Mason Grady

Italy: 15. Lorenzo Pani; 14. Louis Lynagh; 13. Ignacio Brex, 12. Tommaso Menoncello; 11. Monty Ioane; 10. Paolo Garbisi, 9. Stephen Varney; 1. Danilo Fischetti, 2. Giacomo Nicotera, 3. Simone Ferrari; 4. Niccolò Cannone, 5. Federico Ruzza; 6. Sebastian Negri, 7. Michele Lamaro (c), 8. Lorenzo Cannone

Replacements: 16. Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17. Mirco Spagnolo, 18. Giosuè Zilocchi, 19. Andrea Zambonin, 20. Ross Vintcent, 21. Manuel Zuliani, 22. Martin Page-Relo, 23. Leonardo Marin