Wales equalled the longest unbeaten run in their 138-year Test match history as they defeated a dogged Italian side 26-15 yesterday.
It was Wales’ 11th successive victory, matching the sequence set between 1907 and 1910, and teed up a crunch Cardiff clash against England in a fortnight’s time.
But Wales will need to be better for that game as a team showing ten changes from the side that staged a stunning second-half fightback to beat France in Paris last week laboured far too much in Rome.
Tries by wing Josh Adams and centre Owen Watkin, pictured, proved the difference, while fly-half Dan Biggar kicked 14 points and Gareth Anscombe converted Watkin’s touchdown.
But Italy, despite slipping to a 19th successive Six Nations defeat and a 13th on the bounce against Wales, battled hard throughout.
They claimed a first-half try from flanker Abraham Steyn, with fly-half Tommaso Allan kicking a penalty and conversion, before wing Edoardo Padovani crossed late on.
Wales were ultimately deserved winners, yet they will be frustrated at not collecting a winning bonus point, which might prove costly in the final championship shake-up.
“There are lots of things we need to improve for England,” said Gatland afterwards. “The lineout was a bit concerning, we didn’t have enough tempo. We kept having to step away and Italy closed down that space pretty quickly.
“We all need to improve in lots of areas to beat England, they are a pretty good side at the moment. If we play like that against England it could be embarrassing.”
Despite the record-equalling victory, Wales captain Jonathan Davies also felt there was plenty of room for improvement.
“I think there was a lot of frustration in that performance, but I can’t fault the boys’ effort,” said Davies.
“That accuracy in the final quarter to turn that pressure into points was probably what we lacked. But we came to a difficult place to play and got the result. Credit to Italy, they made things tough for us.”