The Wales head coach has made just two enforced changes to his side that ended Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes last Saturday in Cardiff.
Wales bounced back from their opening round defeat to England to win three in a row against Scotland, France and Ireland, and are first up on “Super Saturday” and are still in the hunt for a third RBS 6 Nations title in four years.
This whole championship has been about horses for courses, and that’s what we have done this week.
Warren Gatland on Wales selection for Italy game
But they must make up a 25-point deficit to England and 21-point deficit to Ireland to be the first recipients of the new trophy launched for this season.
Ireland will look to retain their title with a win over Scotland at BT Murrayfield, while England are in the fortunate position of knowing exactly what they need to do when they host France in the final match of the championship at Twickenham.
While they are favourites to leave the Stadio Olimpico with a win, only a big win will see Gatland’s men get close to having a chance of winning the title, and the Kiwi has insists that getting a victory must come first.
“If we were playing for a Grand Slam and having to win by one point, then some of the team or the bench might have been a bit different,” Gatland said.
“We have picked players that we think can come on and have an impact and give us some go-forward and real footballing skills.
“This whole championship has been about horses for courses, and that’s what we have done this week.”
While the starting XV has again seen limited changes, Gatland has brought in Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies to provide an impact from the bench if Wales go in search of tries in the closing stages.
The important thing for us on Saturday is not to get carried away about the scoreboard. Let’s win the game first, because there are two other games afterwards.
Warren Gatland on his side’s focus for Italy game
Davies was the Guinness PRO12’s top try scorer last season and seen as a more attacking threat than Mike Phillips, who has provided cover for Rhys Webb in the opening four matches of the championship.
But Gatland is adamant that Wales will not be getting carried away as they face an Italian side that stunned Scotland at BT Murrayfield with an impressive display from their powerful forwards, but were out of sorts in a dour 29-0 defeat to France in Rome on Sunday.
“One of the things about Gareth is if you look at his try-scoring record,” Gatland added.
“He’s incredibly quick and he scores some wonderful tries out of nothing for the Scarlets.
“If we need him to come and run the ball and take the Italians on, that’s part of the decision behind him being given that opportunity.
“The important thing for us on Saturday is not to get carried away about the scoreboard.
“Let’s win the game first, because there are two other games afterwards.
“The worst thing for us would be to go out and try to score 40 or 50 points against Italy, end up playing too much rugby early on and lose the game, and then find that Scotland and France win, and we have potentially cost ourselves a championship.
“We have got to be smart about the way we approach the game.”
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