Warren Gatland is delighted with Wales’ decisive goal against Italy

Warren Gatland insists Wales will rise to the challenge of a wooden spoon decider against Italy after France handed them a fourth straight defeat in the 2024 Guinness Six Nations.

France battled to a 45-24 win in five tries in Cardiff on Sunday as Wales failed to stop Les Bleus’ onslaught in a one-sided second half.

Wales have not finished bottom of the Championship since losing all five games in 2003, but that is the prospect facing Gatland’s young side ahead of Saturday’s showdown against the Azzurri at the Principality Stadium.

“This is huge for us,” said head coach Gatland. “You have to accept it and not run away from the challenge. I have never done that.

“You can’t go into your shell and hide. There will be a lot of pressure and expectations from outside and that’s what international rugby is always about.

“We have to take the lead, work hard next week and deliver a performance at home.”

Fifth-placed Italy are seven points ahead of Wales in the Championship standings, three of them after beating Scotland 31-29 in Rome on Saturday.

This is huge for us… we definitely don’t want to end up at the bottom

Warren Gatland on the final Six Nations game between Wales and Italy

It was Italy’s first Six Nations win since victory in Cardiff two years ago, while Wales have lost 11 of their last 12 games in the competition.

“Physically they are in pretty good shape for competition at this level,” Gatland said after Wales suffered a sixth consecutive defeat to France.

“It will be a challenge for us and a massive challenge for them because they believe that with a good performance they can get to their best possible position in the Six Nations.

“We definitely don’t want to end up at the bottom.”

Rio Dyer, Tomos Williams and Joe Roberts scored tries to give Wales a 24-20 lead early in the second half.

But Wales eventually lost value and sent a record score to France in Cardiff, with Gatland saying: “There were a lot of parts of the game that were reasonably good.”

“We were pretty happy with the first half. Our goal was to play through phases and when we got through five or six phases we created space and holes and caused problems for them.

“But we didn’t help ourselves with some slight turnovers and mistakes that allowed them to get some momentum back into the game.

“We were in front, we looked dangerous and created some chances and spaces.

“We have to keep it up and make sure we manage the game a little bit better in terms of those big moments.

“Unfortunately we probably capitulated a little in the last 15 minutes.”

France end their Six Nations campaign against England in Lyon on Saturday and captain Gregory Alldritt believes Les Bleus are in top form ahead of the competition.

Alldritt said: “It’s always a big game against England for us. We know that our leaders always expect a major crisis.

“We’ll have a big rebound early in the week because it’s a short week and then we’ll attack this game.”

“England are playing really good rugby at the moment and have a really strong defense too, so it will be a big challenge for the forwards.

“We hope to finish with a great performance and a win.”

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