Six Nations: Wales want ‘same time’ final fixtures

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WALES assistant coach Rob Howley feels the final round of RBS Six Nations matches should be played simultaneously to stop teams having the advantage of a later kick-off.

Tournament leaders England will kick off against France at Twickenham tomorrow evening knowing exactly what they need to do to win the title, with fellow contenders Ireland and Wales having played earlier in the day.

Rob Howley, left, and Warren Gatland will hope to mastermind a big Welsh win over Italy. Picture: Getty

Rob Howley, left, and Warren Gatland will hope to mastermind a big Welsh win over Italy. Picture: Getty

England’s points difference is four better than Ireland, who travel to play Scotland at Murrayfield, and 25 more than Wales who open the championship’s final weekend of action with a lunchtime appointment in Italy.

Howley claims that scheduling puts Wales at a clear disadvantage to reclaim the trophy they last won in 2013, while preventing a more exciting conclusion if the final games were played at the same time.

“I do really enjoy the last day of the [English] Premiership football where you have everyone listening to their radios for the scores,” Howley said. “The drama of that situation is unique. It would be unique in rugby and it should be the case in the Six Nations.

“In terms of all of us kicking off at the same time there would be some drama in the game knowing what changes had to be made and the message that needed to be got on to the pitch.”

Wales have won on their last three visits to Rome but those margins of victory do not provide reason for optimism that Warren Gatland’s squad will be cracking open the champagne this weekend.

Italy have been competitive, with Wales recording 17, eight and five-point wins on those occasions and you have to go back a decade, when Mike Ruddock’s 2005 Grand Slam-winning side triumphed 38-8, to find the sort of victory that would give the visitors any hope in the event of England beating France.

“Going first up it’s important we win the game, although I am not too sure what we will do will be enough,” Howley said.

“Ireland and England will have the opportunity after our game to know what they have to do, which is always a good thing.

“That could be a hindrance to us but we have to focus on our game and make sure we win. We all know Rome is a really difficult place to go.”

But Howley admits Wales will be using the fact that the Six Nations trophies are being sent to the England and Ireland games as motivation for their own title-winning mission.

The real trophy will be at Twickenham, with the replica cup at BT Murrayfield in the event of Ireland retaining the championship. “It’s a common-sense decision to do what they’ve done with the trophies,” Howley said. “Twenty-five and 21 points is a lot of points to make up, especially when you look at the points that have been scored in the championship. But the added motivation is that one trophy is going to Edinburgh and one is going to Twickenham.

“We know where we stand and our motivation is to go out and win the game first. But if it’s in our eyesight then we can put the pressure on Ireland and England.” Italy captain Sergio Parisse has been ruled out of tomorrow’s clash at the Stadio Olimpico. The No 8 has not recovered from a foot injury suffered during last weekend’s 29-0 home loss to France. Parisse will be replaced in the back row by Samuela Vunisa, who moves from openside flanker, with veteran Mauro Bergamasco handed the No 7 shirt.

Leicester hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini will take over the captaincy reins from Parisse while other changes from the France clash see starts for Zebre stand-off Kelly Haimona, who has recovered from an injury that ruled him out of the France encounter, along with long-serving prop Martin Castrogiovanni.

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