First 20 minutes will be crucial – lock Ian Evans
ITALY v WALES (Tomorrow, KO 2.30)
EXTINGUISHING Latin passion in the opening 20 minutes will be the key if Wales are to emerge triumphant over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico on Satur-day.
That’s according to Ian Evans who has been in outstanding form since returning from a leg injury suffered during the humiliating defeat to Samoa in November.
The Ospreys lock was a towering presence during Wales’ defeat to Ireland in Cardiff and again when they beat France a fortnight ago.
Evans, 28, was simply superb in that win, playing a major part in securing victory in Paris for the first time since 2005.
Retaining the title they won during last year’s Grand Slam is still within Wales’ grasp.
But the 6ft 8in and 18st 6lb giant knows they must tame the fiery Italians and their exuberant fans to keep their hopes alive and secure a fourth Six Nations away success in a row.
That’s something they’ve never achieved since Italy were admitted to the tournament in 2000.
“If they can get their tails up in the first 20 minutes, they can be a great team with their confidence up,” he said.
“The first 20 is always key, they are a passionate team and if we can take that sting out of it, especially up front, hopefully we can stick to our gameplan.”
It’s an interesting little statistic, but Evans has been a winner in all four away Six Nations matches he has featured in during 27-cap career so far.
He has won twice in Twickenham and once in Dublin and Paris but this is his first visit to Rome and the Stadio Olimpico.
“I have never played in Rome before so it will be a new experience for me,” Evans said.
“It is a big stadium, but I don’t think the crowd are on top of you like other grounds. I am looking forward to it.
“People give Italy a lot of disrespect, but when you play them in Rome they are a very good team.
“Speaking from a regional rugby point of view, you go to Treviso and they are a very tough team to beat.
“If we stick to our gameplan, hopefully we can come away with a win.”
Wales need France to do them a big favour and topple England at Twicken-ham tomorrow to give them a realistic chance of winning the competition.
Evans believes the tournament could be decided when Chris Robshaw’s team come to town for the finale at the Millennium Stadium on March 16.
“If everything progresses the way we hope it will, it could all come down to the last game against Eng-land,” he said.
“But we have got to take it step by step.
“You can’t win a Grand Slam every year, the bottom line is to try and come away with the trophy and try and represent ourselves to a high standard.”