Guinness Six Nations: Wales and Italy tipped to keep streaks intact in Rome

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Two teams on streaks come together in Rome on Saturday.

Wales and Italy are tipped to finish with both streaks intact.

The Welsh have 10 straight wins since last March. An 11th would equal their national record set 109 years ago.

The Italians have 18 straight losses in the Six Nations since 2015. The 99-year-old tournament record became theirs outright last weekend in Edinburgh.

“Winning becomes a habit, you find a way to win and we’re on a pretty decent run on the moment,” Wales hooker Ken Owens says. “Records are always there to be broken.

“As a team it is a great achievement to hopefully equal and pass the record. We just want to win rugby matches and the records keep tumbling. Hopefully, we can put ourselves in a bit of history in Welsh rugby.”

Wales suffered a scare last weekend in Paris, coming from 16-0 down at halftime to beat France 24-19 . It was the biggest comeback win since the tournament expanded in 2000.

In 12 seasons as Wales coach, Warren Gatland has never lost to Italy. He wants his second-string side to prevent a similar start at Stadio Olimpico, where Italy feels a lot more inspired than in, say, Cardiff.

“Italy will play a lot more rugby this week,” Gatland says. “They looked dangerous in the last 20 minutes against Scotland, even though there was a yellow card. It just shows that they can be dangerous with ball in hand and I think they’ll play.

“We’ve been in situations before in Rome when games have been close and tight. We’ve got to stay in the arm wrestle against these guys, create chances, and then try and make the most of them.”

Wales’ winning streak started against Italy in the 2018 Six Nations. Gatland made 10 changes and chose Taulupe Faletau to captain for the first time. The Welsh won comfortably 38-14.

This time, Gatland has made 11 changes and picked center Jonathan Davies as a first-time captain. Only Davies, fullback Liam Williams, and wing Josh Adams were retained in the backline, and lock Adam Beard and Josh Navidi in the forwards from the fluky France win.

Italy coach Conor O’Shea is adamant they are out to end both streaks.

“We’re preparing to win,” O’Shea says. “If we keep a high standard in training we can get really important results.

“I really believe in this group. People outside of our camp are free to think that that’s something impossible. I don’t think that way. I have at my disposal great guys with a lot of value. Our focus has to be firmly on ourselves.”

World Rugby postponing July test matches

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World Rugby has postponed July test matches involving southern and northern hemisphere nations because of ongoing restrictions on international travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

The sport’s international governing body issued a statement Friday saying the mid-year test window will be rescheduled when cross-border travel and quarantine regulations are relaxed.

New Zealand had been scheduled to play Wales and Scotland, Australia was set to play Ireland and Fiji and South Africa had planned to host Scotland and Georgia. World Rugby said the postponement is due “to ongoing government and health agency COVID-19 directives.”

Bill Beaumont re-elected as World Rugby chairman

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Former England captain Bill Beaumont has been re-elected as World Rugby chairman on Saturday after beating Agustín Pichot, the current vice-chairman.

The sport’s governing body says the 68-year-old Beaumont achieved a first-round majority of 28 votes to 23.

Beaumont says: “I am honored to accept the mandate of the World Rugby Council to serve as the international federation’s chairman once again.”

He begins his four-year term after a council meeting on May 12.

French rugby federation president Bernard Laporte becomes Beaumont’s new vice-chairman.