Stat watch: Wales win battle of the breakdown in Rome

Wales made it a record-equalling 11th win on the spin by beating Italy 26-15 in Rome.

Wales made it a record-equalling 11th win on the spin by beating Italy 26-15 in Rome.

Despite making 10 changes from last weekend’s victory over France, Warren Gatland’s men started strongly, leading 12-0 through the boot of Dan Biggar.

A Braam Steyn try before the interval reduced the deficit as the hosts fought back, but Warren Gatland’s side held on thanks in large part to a dogged defensive performance.

Here are all the key stats you need to know from the clash at the Stadio Olimpico.

Rookies excel in Wales back-row

From Sam Warburton to Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau, Welsh rugby has enjoyed its fair share of top-class loose forwards in recent years.

Josh Navidi, Man of the Match in the Italian capital is another to add to the list, while in rookies Aaron Wainwright and Thomas Young, Gatland may well have unearthed two further gems.

Forming a mobile, aggressive back-row with the more experienced Navidi, the duo showed that the future of Welsh rugby is in more than capable hands.

On his first Six Nations start, Wasps flanker Young completed a team high 15 out of 15 tackles, with Wainwright just behind on 14 out of 15.

“I thought the back-row were excellent,” said Gatland after the match. “Aaron Wainwright was good and obviously Josh Navidi was given Man of the Match.

“I thought the loose forward trio worked really well together, thought Thomas (Young) was good) – particularly in the first half; I thought he had a strong performance.”

Tackle king Braam shows his Steyn power

As the scoreline suggests, Wales certainly did not have it all their own way in Rome, with Italy enjoying periods in control of the ball either side of half-time.

Key to their turnaround in fortunes was flanker Braam Steyn, who dotted down for a 33rd minute try as well as playing a crucial role around the fringes.

The 26-year-old Benetton man topped the tackle count at the Stadio Olimpico, completing 22 of his 24 attempts as Conor O’Shea’s team wrestled back some control.

Alongside a typically stoic Sergio Parisse performance, Steyn’s display was one of the shining lights for Italy in defeat.

Breakdown success key to Wales victory

Winning the breakdown has never been more important in rugby.

As Ireland’s success last year showed, slowing down opposition attacks has become nine-tenths of the law for teams seeking to stifle and dominate at the top level.

Fortunately for Wales, then, this is an area they’re excelling in at present.

Retaining 97 per cent of the own breakdowns, Navidi, Young and co also managed to steal possession five times from Italian rucks.

In the end, it made the crucial difference – and it’s why, at least in part, Gatland’s men can now go into the Welsh history books with victory over England next time out.