Howley wary of Italy threat
Wales assistant coach thinks Azzurri will be tough to beat
Last Updated: 05/03/12 4:01pm
Rob Howley: Thinks Italy will be tough to beat at the Millennium Stadium
Wales assistant coach Rob Howley expects Italy to provide his side with a stern test in their RBS Six Nations clash at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
The Azzurri will be huge underdogs against a Wales side that has already won the Triple Crown and is still on course for the Grand Slam.
Although Italy have beaten Wales twice in Rome, their Six Nations record at the Millennium Stadium shows five defeats and one draw with an average scoreline of 39-14 against them, but Howley is still cautious ahead of the clash.
"Italy next Saturday is all that counts for us. We've never had an easy game against Italy in the four years I have been involved (as a coach)," Howley said.
"They have always scored between 10 and 15 points against us, and there is always a stage against them when you are under the pump.
"They will be hurting from their result over in Ireland (Italy lost 42-10). It's never easy when you play against a side that has lost its previous game, so we are just mindful of what Italy can bring to the table."
Meanwile, Wales look set to welcome back one World Cup star - but lose another - for the clash.
Less than a fortnight after Ospreys lock Alun-Wyn Jones returned to Test action from injury, his World Cup second-row partner Luke Charteris could now join him after returning to the Wales training squad.
But centre Jamie Roberts is fighting what appears to be a losing fitness battle ahead of the Azzurri encounter.
"They have always scored between 10 and 15 points against us, and there is always a stage against them when you are under the pump."
Rob Howley on Italy Quotes of the week
"We've said throughout the competition about strength in depth in terms of selection," Howley said.
"Luke was a huge part of our World Cup success, and to see him back is great. It's nice to have another option, a selection issue, with Luke coming back.
"He acquitted himself very well for the Dragons against Munster. He will be very pleased to have got through that first game - it is always a nervous occasion when you have been out for a period of time."
He added: "Luke is not here to make up numbers - it would be a disservice to be saying that. He is here to be selected, and it is good to have him back."
The news on Roberts does not appear promising after he went off at half-time against England at Twickenham last time out.
Howley said: "We are still not too sure about Jamie. He has to come through training today and tomorrow. Jamie, at the moment, is probably the only doubt."
Wales will have the title within touching distance if they convincingly defeat Italy and England topple France in Paris 24 hours later, but Howley says his side cannot afford to be distracted by results eswhere.
"It is about us getting our house in order, really," he said.
"We have got through a tricky three games, and we have got two home games to go. We are in good shape, but we realise the enormity of the task next Saturday afternoon.
"We can control what happens at the Millennium Stadium. It is in our hands. Whatever happens between England and France next Sunday, we will take stock of that as and when it happens."