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Nic Ladds 12th Mar 2009 - 14:37

Lee can help Byrne off Italian challenge

Wales find themselves priced up at odds of 1/16 to win in Rome and they will be looking for a wide margin victory after losing to France last game.

Italy have little chance at 7/1 and with the handicap set giving Italy a 17 points head start at odds of 10/11 you get an idea of what kind of match it is likely to be. Wales are also 10/11 giving up the 17 points.

Wales coach Warren Gatland has made 10 changes from the side that lost to France last week.

Notably James Hook comes in at fly half for Stephen Jones, Gavin Henson gets a place in the starting line up and captain Ryan Jones drops to the bench, leaving Alun Wyn Jones to lead out the Welsh side.

Italy have been annihilated in most of their games so far. They were slightly unlucky in the England game to lose by so much due to the Mauro Bergamasco at scrum-half experiment, then Ireland came to Rome and wiped the floor with them 38-9.

Last game, in a match that many thought they could win, Scotland beat them 26-6 to make them a near certainty for the wooden spoon.

The Italians have often started brightly before crumbling late on and they will no doubt play their physical, rough game to try and unsettle Wales and stop them getting the ball down the line.

Wales have ground out victories as opposed to demolished the sides they've played and this weekend will be a chance for them to get some confidence back in time for what could ultimately be the decider in the final game against Ireland.

Winning margins to Wales of 16-20 at 11/2 or 21-25 at 9/2 look plausible but some may fancy a tighter game as the Welsh have not ran in multiple tries yet so perhaps 6-10 at 7/1 could be the call.

The second half being the highest scoring half looks a decent bet at 4/5 in the betting as Italy always seem to crumble late in to the game, allowing fitter, more powerful side to overpower them late on.

Shane Williams is obviously a one of Wales' main try threats at 13/2 to score first try with Mark Jones at 9/1 and Lee Byrne, who has been excellent all tournament, 12/1.

Gavin Henson will no doubt be looking to make an impact on his return and is 12/1 to cross the line first.

Tom Shanklin has found himself demoted to the bench, but will no doubt get a run out later on and he could be a decent wager at 12/1 to score the last try.

As usual Mirco Bergamasco is Italy's biggest threat and he can be backed at 20/1 to shock Wales and score first, while Sergio Parisse is truly a world-class performer and will do his best to get the forwards in to some sort of order.

There is no doubt that Wales will win and it is more a question of by how much and in what style?

If these changes Gatland had made make for an impressive display then they can go in to the Ireland match brimming with confidence then a good performance is likely.

However, if Wales once again struggle to rack up points and are pushed all the way by Italy then Irish eyes will have both eyes firmly planted on the trophy.

Recommendation:
Lee Byrne to score first try - 12/1
Wales to win by 16-20 points - 11/2

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