Wales need discipline, says Rob Howley
10:00am Wednesday 20th February 2013 in Sport
ROB Howley has identified the twin targets of discipline and mom-entum when Wales look to remain in RBS 6 Nations title contention on Saturday.
The reigning Six Nations champions head to Rome for an appointment with Italy, who are likely to go into battle without their mercurial captain Sergio Parisse.
The Stade Francais star faces a disciplinary hearing in Paris today after being sent off for allegedly insulting referee Laurent Cardona during a league game against Bordeaux-Begles last weekend.
Parisse has denied any wrongdoing, but an anticipated minimum ban of six weeks would rule him out of Italy’s remaining Six Nations appointments this season against Wales, England and Ireland.
Interim Wales boss Howley, though, has no doubt the Azzurri – Six Nations conquerors of Wales in 2003 and 2007 – will once again provide difficult, testing opposition.
“It is one of the toughest places to go in Europe,” said Howley, who confirmed lock Alun Wyn Jones and flanker Sam Warburton as changes on the bench following Wales’ 16-6 victory over France in Paris earlier this month.
“I think they have got a great set-piece, and it is important we stop them at source.
“We’ve always had a tough outing against Italy, home or away. They are very difficult to break down, they are very well organised, they’ve got some world-class players and they are coached very well.
“It is a good challenge for us. On the back of winning in France, we realise that one win isn’t good enough. It is about some momentum, and we need to go out there and beat Italy.
“The key for the weekend is discipline. It is the one thing we will talk about between now and then.”
Warburton, Wales’ 2011 World Cup captain who led them to Six Nations title and Grand Slam glory last season, missed the Stade de France encounter because of a shoulder injury.
His fellow back-row forward Ryan Jones took over as skipper, with Justin Tipuric wearing the number seven shirt for a game that saw Wales claim their first victory in Paris since 2005.
Howley gave his Paris heroes a resounding vote of confidence by naming an unchanged team seven days ago, and Warburton will be joined on the bench by Ospreys forward Jones, who suffered a shoulder injury during the Millennium Stadium defeat against Argentina three months ago and subsequently underwent surgery.
He was called into Wales’ Six Nations squad last week and has made a couple of comeback appearances for the Ospreys, confirming his fitness.
Cardiff Blues lock Lou Reed and Scarlets flanker Aaron Shingler drop out of the match-day 23 on duty against France, with Howley’s bench contingent boasting a total of 264 caps.
“With Alun Wyn and Sam on the bench, that experience and impact is so important,” Howley added.
“The last 20-25 minutes in games are key, and having their experience is a priceless commodity. I am sure they will have a huge impact on the weekend.
“Sam is fully fit, he’s taken an active part in training, and it’s great to have that experience. International rugby is about 23 players.
“Sam will go on to play many games for Wales and captain Wales.
“He is the ultimate professional.
“He is very grounded, and he understands regarding the decision that it was the best for the team.
“He has been fantastic in training, and he is obviously looking forward to making a difference when he goes on.”
Ryan Jones underlined the benefits of Howley’s early team announcement as he prepares to make his 31st Test appearance as Wales skipper, an ongoing record.
“That extra time affords you to cover off things that get left to the last minute in a Test week. One of the toughest things about Test rugby is the lack of good preparation,” he said.
“You only ever have three, possibly four sessions, as a team together, if you are lucky, so with a bit of luck we will be a little bit more prepared.
“The group of guys came back from France with their heads held high, and it is important to harness it. We know what is required.
“We know what the challenge is on Saturday.
“We’ve had some pretty tough encounters over the years against Italy.
“The challenge is to start like we finished against Ireland and France and really set out our stall early on.”