Gatland prepared for 'war' up front
March 7, 2012
Wales boss Warren Gatland is not taking Italy lightly © Getty Images
Wales boss Warren Gatland has prepared his team for a "war" up front in Saturday's Six Nations clash with Italy in Cardiff.
The hosts are one step away from a possible Grand Slam showdown with France - who are out of the running after last weekend's draw with Ireland - but their experienced coach has eyes only for the Azzurri.
Skipper Sam Warburton misses out with a knee problem, handing a first start to the Ospreys' Justin Tipuric, while Jamie Roberts and Matthew Rees have both been passed fit to start.
"I think all the games Italy have played in the Six Nations this season they have been in the games at half-time," Gatland said. "They should have won against England, and for us it is just about saying that if it's close at half-time not to panic.
"It is a game of 80 minutes, and things might happen for us in the second half. We've prepared this week for that first 20 or 30 minutes being a war of attrition up front.
"We need to be accurate, but also potentially match the physicality they are going to come at us with. I think we have picked a really strong side to face Italy. We have a great work ethic in the squad, and I can't emphasise enough how professional these players are in terms of the way they prepare and the extras they do afterwards.
"I think they are a real credit to Wales and to Welsh rugby. It's a good place for the coaches to be in, and for the players to be part of a confident squad that is working really hard together."
Gatland is hopeful that Warburton will be fit to return in the game's final round. "I am hoping so, yes," he said. "He is not fit for this week. He's got a bit of a medial strain, so we are hoping he might be right for next week."
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