Francis features in Welsh win
By Luke Baker
Wales coach Warren Gatland claims it was job done against Italy as Wales ensured their destiny is in their own hands when it comes to finishing second in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations Championshp.
Wales, who included Exeter Chiefs prop Tomas Francis in their starting line-up, hosted the Azzurri in Cardiff on Sunday knowing that a bonus-point triumph would put them second in the Championship table heading into the final round of fixtures next weekend.
And they did exactly that, as George North crossed for two of five home tries in a professional 38-14 win.
The result leaves Wales one point ahead of both England and France in the race to be runners-up behind champions Ireland - with Gatland's men welcoming Les Bleus to Principality Stadium on Saturday.
Tight-head prop Francis was one of ten changes madeto the XV that started the Round Three loss to Ireland and while he admits the continuity was not always there against Italy, he was pleased with how the new faces acquitted themselves in general.
"It was job done which is what we wanted," explained Gatland. "We were giving players an opportunity, so to make that many changes and to score the points we did and win comfortably, that's a pleasing aspect.
"There were elements that were frustrating and disappointing that we'll go and learn from but what we wanted to do was get a bonus-point win, so that our destiny is in our own hands next week to finish second in this Championship.
"It's tough when you make a number of changes - you get a lot of combinations where it's the first time guys have played together. That cohesion takes a little bit of time - it always looks easier in training! That reflected in the performance. At times we looked outstanding and absolutely great but at other times we were a little bit off."
There were a number of impressive performances across the pitch as Hadleigh Parkes was named the NatWest 6 Nations Man of the Match and the returning Justin Tipuric impressed at blindside flanker. And Gatland also reserved special praise for two-try winger North - not only for his scores but his all-round game in Cardiff.
"I thought George North was great - the pleasing thing is he got two tries and was unlucky not to get a third at the end," added Gatland. "His footwork was good and every time he carried the ball, he caused Italy problems - no more so than for Cory Hill's try.
He was very direct there, created quick ball and Cory (Hill) was able to get over."