Italy ready to rattle wobbly Welsh
In any other year, you would put your mortgage on Wales beating Italy and feel confident that you had successfully bought some money at a fantastic rate, but odds of 1/9 this time around actually appear a little short and Cardiff may have to brace itself for a shock.
The Italians have been happy doing what the usually do and making life as difficult as possible for the opposition while only really trying to win against Scotland - which they did, but they have been a lot better than the damage limitation team this year and odds of 13/2 about an away win are almost tempting.
In reality of course, a facile Wales victory is still what is expected from Warren Gatland's side, in a tournament which has seen them get pasted by Ireland and lose to France, England and they should have lost to Scotland so anything but a convincing win could see Gatland's position become anything but secure.
Wales' method of falling miles behind then finishing strongly when the opposition are tired is extremely exciting but not very effective and their leaky defence has been the main cause of this and Italy will be confident they can at least get over the line.
Gatland has dropped Leigh Halfpenney as a token gesture but former talismanic full back Lee Byrne has been woeful this tournament, as have most of the forwards, and the boot of Stephen Jones (20/1 for first try) could be a vital tool during the afternoon, but the likes of Jamie Roberts (12/1), James Hook (11/1) and newbie Tom Prydie (10/1) will all hope to get on the scoresheet, while Shane Williams is predictably favourite at 7/1 to score the first try.
While it was most likely largely due to France easing off, Italy rattle Les Bleus late on and scrum half Pablo Canavosio has been outstanding and could score again at 5/1 for an anytime try, while Mirco Bergamaso (4/1), Kaine Robertson (4/1) and Luke Mclean (11/2) all pose potent enough threats.
So, can Wales give up 15 points at 10/11 against the Azzuri? On a going day, yes easily, but how many of those have we seen recently? Correct, none so backing Italy with a 15 point head start looks the call as the Italians so rarely get beaten out of sight, often finding the defence or points from somewhere to make it respectable.
As always with Wales games, backing the second half to be the highest scoring at 8/11 could be the way to winnings and a speculative punt on Italy/Wales in the double result market at 8/1 could pay dividends if the Welsh are slow out of the traps once again, and if you think Italy can stay within the handicap, a home victory by 1-5 points at 8/1 or 6-10 points at 6/1 can reward at bigger prices.
An emphatic win here for the home side would only paper over the cracks of losses of form from key players, questionable coaching methods and team selections and ultimately poor performances on the pitch.
Something is clearly amiss and it could take a real rattling from the improving Italians for the believed, necessary changes to be made. Wales will win, but this writer feels there will be nothing pretty about it and expect Italy to give another trademark, battling performance.
Italy +15 points - 10/11
Wales to win by 6-10 points - 6/1