It was great to see Wales make it three wins in three against Italy. Wales played some scintillating rugby, particularly in the second half, and it was an emphatic and comprehensive win.
But the scoreline doesn’t paint a total picture. In the first half Italy caused Wales problems. They were very physical and had a couple of scoring opportunities and they frustrated Wales for long periods.
But as soon as Italy lost that intensity, Wales had the ability to get the ball away from the tackle area. Once that happened there was only one winner. After the try from Shanklin came it was one-way traffic. Once that gap opened up, it was a foregone conclusion. After 50 minutes the game was over.
Italy frustrated Wales, as they did against Ireland and as they did against England. But they didn’t do so for long enough against Wales, who capitalised on the opportunities.
Wales did well to move the point of focus and move the point of attack which didn’t allow the Italian defenders to settle and get to the breakdown. Italy couldn’t slow the game down.
Stephen Jones had an excellent game and the decision to play him ahead of James Hook paid off. They are different players in terms of what they bring to the game. Jones maybe hasn’t got the natural ability of Hook, that sort of spontaneity. But he leads the team tactically and mixes his game which was perhaps missing against Scotland.
The Welsh kicking game was excellent. It’s been poor in the past but on Saturday the distance that Byrne and Jones were getting with their kicks put Italy deep in their own territory. It nullified the Italian line-out.
It was great to see Tom Shanklin score a try on his 50th cap. He does offer so much to the team. He doesn’t do the flash things, he chases, he tackles, he harries and I think it’s a nice midfield now with him and Gavin Henson alongside each other.
Ireland in Croke Park is always going to be a tough encounter. Both teams will be going for the Triple Crown. It’s a great opportunity for Wales but I think Warren Gatland has done very well in keeping expectations low and he’s well aware of areas in which Wales need to improve. It’s going to be a tough game but I think Wales can go there full of heart and full of confidence.