Six Nations 2016: Gatland wants 'stepping stone' to NZ tour

Warren Gatland
Warren Gatland was a regular and ultimately uncapped hooker understudy to legendary New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick
Six Nations: Wales v Italy
Date: Saturday, 19 March Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One Wales & S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

Coach Warren Gatland wants Wales to ensure second-place in the Six Nations by beating Italy on Saturday as a "stepping stone" to facing World Cup holders New Zealand in June.

England bid for a Grand Slam against France later in the day having already won the title.

Gatland said "Apart from us having won, I think the last time that Wales finished second was in 1980."

After that his thoughts will turn to Wales' three-Test tour to his homeland.

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Wales face England in a friendly at Twickenham on Sunday, 29 May in preparation for what lies ahead against the All Blacks.

But Gatland hopes his side can end a 63-year wait for a win against New Zealand by taking advantage of the retirements of iconic stars such as Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith.

"We get a chance in June against New Zealand who are obviously in a rebuilding phase having lost so many experienced players so you've got to be pretty excited about that," said Gatland.

Biggar welcomes Webb's return

Wales fly-half Biggar says he and his team-mates hope to go some way towards redeeming themselves in the eyes of fans and coaches.

He is also looking forward to rekindling his half-back partnership with fellow Osprey Rhys Webb, who takes over from Gareth Davies to start for the first time after recovering from foot surgery.

"Gareth Davies has done extremely well throughout the tournament as well, it's obviously nice to get Rhys back in terms of being familiar with him," said Biggar.

Prop Lee "was good" against England

Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde says prop Samson Lee can concentrate on aspects of his game that need to improve instead of the furore that followed England prop Joe Marler calling him "Gypsy boy" at Twickenham.

"If you've ever had the pleasure of talking to Samson, you will find out that he is not distracted by things on the outside," said McBryde.

Samson Lee
Samson Lee's 22nd Wales appearances will come against Italy in the 2016 Six Nations

"I thought Samson was good last week. He needs to do a little bit more around the field perhaps, but so does everybody.

"He will be looking to build on last week. Samson is just focused on his performance, and (Lee's fellow Wales prop) Rob Evans will be as well as he goes up against (Martin) Castrogiovanni."

Parisse wants to make a point

For winless Italy, it is a chance to underline why the idea of Six Nations promotion and relegation should be shelved.

Captain and number eight talisman Sergio Parisse said: "When Italy or another team doesn't win a match in the Six Nations, everyone's talking about relegation.

"But we have played in a lot of Six Nations where we have won one match, a couple in which we won two matches.

"Obviously we are one of the weak teams in the Six Nations, but I really think we have won the respect of the other teams.

"It's a difficult moment for us now - it's normal for everyone to talk about whether Italy should or should not be in the Six Nations.

"But at the same time I think they respect us because I think in the past this team has shown good things."

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