Italy’s former coach Nick Mallett reckons that the Italians are in with a fighting chance of winning as they look to take on Wales in the first of the Six Nations clashes this Sunday.

With Italy at home, and undefeated since early 2016 (when they were beaten by Australia) things are looking up for the Azzurri. Whilst they have taken points of the French and Scottish in previous tournaments, they rarely manage to get any points from their clashes with the Welsh teams (both domestically and internationally) – but that might all yet change in Rome this year!

“I would not be surprised if there is a shock in Rome,” said Mallett. “It’s the worst time to take on an Italian side because there is a lot of hope, especially after November where they beat South Africa.”

Mallett knows what he is talking about, having coached the Sprinboks to glory in the late 90s, and set a record for the most matches unbeaten in international rugby.

One person who, like the thousands of Welsh fans travelling to the Stadio Olympico, can’t wait for the series to get going, is the new captain Alun Wyn Jones, who took over from Sam Warburton when caretaker boss Howley stepped into control. It has been his childhood dream for many a year, and to lead the boys in Red out at the start of the match will be a dream come true. Tickets are still available for the match via this website, with the chance to see Wales in full swing a tempting opportunity for many.

“My dream was to play for Wales and I have been very fortunate where I am. To represent a pretty special country that is passionate about rugby was definitely in my thoughts.”

All eyes will be on the match that opens the Six Nations for 2017 for both teams, and by then we’ll know who is looking like the more likely champion amongst the rest, with England facing off against France and Scotland having a Celtic battle against Ireland.