Grand Slam seekers Wales calm ahead of France Test

Mike Brown
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Wales' full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicks a penalty against Italy

Wales' full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicks a penalty during their Six Nations rugby union match against Italy at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Wales won 24-3

Wales head coach Warren Gatland is planning a low-key week for his players as they aim to match the superstars of the Seventies by making it three Grand Slams in eight seasons against France next weekend.

Second half tries from Jamie Roberts and Alex Cuthbert allowed Wales to extend their 9-3 half-time lead over the Italians to a final, unspectacular scoreline of 24-3 on Saturday.

But that was good enough to maintain their unbeaten record and give them a chance of doing something special at the Millennium stadium.

"I don't think it will be difficult for us to keep a lid on things next week. We have planned next week so that we aren't out too much," said Gatland.

"These young players are taking things in their stride. They are well aware there will be a huge crowd and huge hype next week, but we are in a good place and the Welsh public seem to be pretty pleased with the players.

"The welcome we had from the fans as we drove into the Millennium Stadium was fantastic."

Italy were forced to make almost twice as many tackles as Wales in the game (121-62) and were swamped on the territory and possession statistics.

But they were still in the hunt at half time - three Leigh Halfpenny penalties to one from Mirco Bergamasco - and it wasn't until the 50th minute that Wales found their way to the try line.

Roberts carved his way through and raced 40 metres to the posts for a try that Halfpenny improved, but not even that could open the floodgates.

Cuthbert added a second three minutes from time after Rhys Priestland had added a penalty.

That's why Gatland admitted the Welsh dressing room was a "quiet and frustrated" place after the game.

"The man with the whistle was pretty pedantic. We couldn't get any quick ball," he said.

"With a team with that much possession the penalty count shouldn't have been 13. The yellow card was pretty tough as well - Leigh jumped for the ball and not to take the player out.

"The boys are a bit flat in the dressing room but we are happy with having four wins from four. They wanted to score some points today and that's why they are frustrated - the game turned into a dog fight."

Italy, who have now lost four games in a row, will end their championship against Scotland in Rome next weekend, but will have to do so without Tobias Botes, who dislocated his shoulder late on in the game.

"The spirit we have shown today was completely different than against Ireland in Dublin, especially in our defensive performance against what is a very powerful Welsh side and we kept ourselves in the game almost throughout," said Italian coach Jacques Brunel.

"It was a weaker game from an attacking point of view especially with the line-out as we made too many mistakes there to launch any good attacks.

Italy captaion Sergio Parisse added: "Apart from the second half in Dublin it has not been a bad championship, our first with Jacques in charge as head coach.

"We missed the win against England by a few points and we hope we can win against Scotland next week to end the championship on a high."