Six Nations 2015: Wales at a disadvantage on final weekend

Gareth Thomas
RBS Six Nations: Italy v Wales
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Rome Date: Saturday, 21 March Kick-off: 12:30 GMT Coverage: Live on BBC TV, HD, Red Button, BBC Radio Wales, Radio Cymru Radio 5 live, 5 live sports extra, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV

In his 2015 Six Nations column for the BBC Scrum V website, former Wales captain Gareth Thomas says Wales must concentrate on securing victory before worrying about their points total against Italy in the final round of matches in this year's tournament.

First and foremost, victory for Wales in Italy on Saturday is paramount. They can't think of the margin, they must think of the win.

Wales go into the game knowing they have to win and win by a big margin, but how big a margin will only dictate what happens later when Ireland play Scotland and then England host France.

Wales' waiting game

It's going to be a waiting game for Wales and it would be better if all three games were played at the same time with everybody in the dark.

Wales are at a disadvantage because Ireland and England will know exactly what they have to do to win the title.

To pick winners and losers is always the easy part but whenever I'm asked to pick by margins, it's always difficult.

So many factors come into it like a penalty decision, a wrong decision or a bounce of a ball and that it makes it difficult to predict.

Wales cannot think about the margin - that will come with the performance.

When the clock comes into play you start - once the victory's there - to get your players into a mind-set of attacking more in areas where you would usually play safe.

Three-horse race
TeamPoints differenceFinal-day match
England+37France (h)
Ireland+33Scotland (a)
Wales+12Italy (a)
The three-way battle - who needs what?

The sad part is that Italy have almost become anonymous in this fixture now - it's all about Wales, whereas last Saturday against Ireland it was about both teams.

The magnitude of this Saturday's game is not just the result but the size of the result, which makes it exciting.

I'm a big believer that if you realise you're good enough to win the tournament you know what you have to do.

Last week's win against a great Ireland team was the real victory and this weekend Wales need to build on it and that means keeping their winning momentum going.

Opportunity knocks

The injuries to Samson Lee and Gethin Jenkins are a bit of a disruption and Italy have a strong scrummage.

But I believe we will be able to hold our own and it's a great opportunity to show our strength in depth, especially in a World Cup year.

A lot of players who end up as first choice world class in their positions get their opportunities through the mishap of others.

Props Rob Evans and Aaron Jarvis have been given an opportunity and it's up to them to fit into the way this Welsh team plays.

It's a big chance for them to be part of what is a really strong, successful Welsh team.

Warren Gatland has said he will not go "on bended knees" to Adam Jones to ask him come out of retirement.

Adam Jones has a lot to offer whether it be as a player, squad member or somebody to give advice.

Sometimes in Welsh rugby we're too quick to let people sit on the scrapheap and leave them out to pasture when they've still got something to give.

Adam's played at the top of the game in a position that is very difficult, so to have him around would be priceless and it would be silly not to use him.

Italy is always a bit of an arm wrestle and Wales cannot take them lightly.

Gareth Thomas in action against Italy in 1996
Gareth Thomas in action during Wales' 33-21 win over Italy in October 1996

I was captain of the last Wales side to lose to Italy in 2007, a game which ended in controversial circumstances when we kicked to touch but were not allowed to have the lineout when the referee blew up for full-time.

That defeat helped us realise there was a lot of work to be done with rebuilding needed from the ground up.

But I believe this Wales team have built such a foundation and deserve credit.

We are discussing them going to Italy and how they can win by a certain amount of points, rather than whether they can win or lose.

Grounds for Italian concern

Before Italy were accepted into the Six Nations I played in Wales' 31-22 victory in 1996 at Rome's Olympic Stadium, which has been their home since 2012.

The Stadio Flaminio, where Italy used to play their matches, was a lot more intimidating.

It is a lot smaller venue and I feel sometimes smaller venues are a lot more hostile and you can feel the fierceness of the crowd a lot more.

The Olympic Stadium is so vast and is an inspiring rather than intimidating environment.

As much as Italian rugby has grown, I still don't think they have the passion and the support of the other countries in the Six Nations.

Gareth Thomas was speaking to BBC Wales Sport's Aled Williams

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