Six Nations 2015

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Italy 20-61 Wales
Wales have no fears ahead of World Cup
ESPN Staff
March 22, 2015
Liam Williams was fantastic against Italy © Getty Images
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Warren Gatland delivered an upbeat assessment about Wales' World Cup prospects later this year as his team suffered an heroic Six Nations title failure at Stadio Olimpico.

Wales, lying in third place behind England and Ireland before kick-off, posted a record win against Italy, destroying the Azzurri 61-20. Head coach Gatland looked on as Wales scored 47 second-half points, with wing George North claiming a try hat-trick in 11 minutes, while Rhys Webb, Liam Williams, Jamie Roberts, Scott Williams and Sam Warburton also touched down.

Ireland's emphatic victory over Scotland at Murrayfield ended Wales' hopes of silverware, but Gatland is relishing a World Cup campaign that will see him plotting the downfall of England and Australia, who are both in the same pool.

"We won't be going into the World Cup with any fears of not qualifying from our group," Gatland said. "There is no fear about playing England at Twickenham or Australia as well, because we know we will be in good shape as long as everyone stays fit and clear of injuries.

"We can go there with some real confidence and belief that we can get out of our group. You have sides ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in the world, so that shows how tough it is to get out of that group, while Fiji with preparation will be tough as well.

"It is unfortunate that you are going to have one of the big teams not making the quarter-finals."

Wales laboured to a 14-13 interval lead against Italy, but then they cut loose, destroying their hosts through some mesmeric rugby highlighted by North's blistering finishing.

"The message at half-time was to make sure we were more accurate and kept the tempo up in the second half," Gatland added. "We scored some great tries. The disappointing thing was conceding one right at the end and then missing a chance. It was probably a 14-point swing in terms of the points difference, but at half-time you would have taken that scoreline.

"I was proud of the boys and the effort, and the way they responded with some great rugby in the second half. We thought beforehand if we won by 40 points we would give ourselves a chance, and by 50 we might have put real pressure on the other two teams, so we had to wait and see. Everyone talks about the first half and second half, but in international rugby it does not matter who you are playing against, it's difficult to put a team away.

"We were under a bit of pressure at scrum-time in the first half and conceded a penalty from the kick-off. Italy really slowed the game down, but once we got into the game and got in front we started to play and we were very good. There is always a licence, no matter what people try to say, for these players to play what is in front of them. If they feel they can go from their own goal-line, they have that licence to make those decisions."

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