Shane Williams has urged Wales to be patient and weather the early Italian storm in a match that could underpin a successful RBS 6 Nations title defence.
Italy’s 2009 RBS 6 Nations campaign already lies in ruins following successive defeats against England, Ireland and Scotland, having crumbled under the weight of conceding 100 points and 12 tries.
The Dragons are widely expected to compound the misery for Azzurri head coach Nick Mallett, especially if the reigning RBS 6 Nations champions can unleash their renowned running game on inferior opponents.
Head coach Warren Gatland has challenged a new-look team - it shows nine changes and one positional switch from the side beaten by France two weeks ago - to give him a selection headache.
There can can be no greater incentive for individuals like wing Mark Jones, fly-half James Hook, hooker Huw Bennett and flanker Jonathan Thomas, knowing a potential RBS 6 Nations title decider against Ireland is just eight days away.
The immediate task for Wales is to complete a ruthless Italian job by not only winning, but improving a points difference that is currently inferior by 23 to Ireland’s.
Wales won by 30 points in Rome four years ago on their way to Grand Slam glory under Mike Ruddock - and they need a repeat showing.
“One of the key words we have spoken about is patience,” said Williams.
“Every time I have played Italy the first 20 minutes have been very intense. They come out with all guns blazing, and I expect the same on Saturday.
“If we can keep a lid on them in those opening minutes, be patient and go through our patterns, we hope the performance will bring the result we want.
“We are going to play this game like any other, by concentrating on us, going through the phases and doing what we do well.
“Rome is a beautiful place to play rugby, but one thing I have learnt is that Italy play very well at home. They seem to be a different side when they are at the Stadio Flaminio.
“They give 100% and it is always a tough game. I can’t see it being any different this weekend.”
By his own immense standards, wing wizard Williams has experienced a quiet championship.
He scored in the opener against Scotland - his 45th Test try - but then missed England’s visit to Cardiff because of an ankle injury, before France performed an effective man-marking job on him in Paris.
“It was a game I found very difficult to get into,” added Williams, recalling a 21-16 defeat that proved Wales’ first Six Nations loss under Gatland.
“When I had a bit of space I had French players blitzing me, even in my 22!
“I need to figure out the way defences are marking me and combat them, because I feel every time I get the ball I have two or three defenders on me.”
Williams needs one try to equal Gareth Thomas’ Welsh record of eight against Italy, while a double would haul him level with Gareth Edwards, who holds a Wales-best 18 touchdowns in Five/Six Nations rugby.
“We are not going into this game being complacent and thinking we only have to turn up to win it.
“I thought Italy played well against Ireland, and the final scoreline (38-9) did not reflect the game.
“I wouldn’t say they have gone back. Maybe the teams they have played have progressed as national sides - look at the likes of Ireland and Scotland.
“Ireland are a far better side this year than last, and Scotland have played a lot of good rugby.
“We are going into this match knowing they are more than capable of beating the Welsh side.
“I have been in a team beaten by Italy, and we know our record isn’t particularly good against them.”