Six Nations 2017: Nick Mallett predicts Italy can 'shock' Wales

George North
Wales beat Italy 67-14 in Cardiff in the 2016 Six Nations

Former Italy coach Nick Mallett says he would not be surprised if Italy beat Wales in the Six Nations when they face each other on 5 February.

Wales start their campaign in Rome against an Italian side who defeated South Africa in November of 2016.

The Azzurri have a new head coach in Irishman Conor O'Shea and Mallett believes this Italian squad can defeat Wales at the Stadio Olimpico.

"I would not be surprised if there is a shock in Rome," said Mallett.

The South African, who led the Springboks to a then world record-equalling 17 consecutive Test victories in 1997 and 1998, was in charge of Italy when they defeated Wales in 2007 in Rome.

"They [Italy] have done it before by beating France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales," Mallett continued.

"England are the only side who have not succumbed in Rome.

"The results are very close there. It's a much bigger ask to beat Italy in Rome than it is to beat Italy at home."

Wales have been been beaten in an opening Six Nations match in Rome before in 2003, while Italy have also begun previous campaigns with opening home wins against Scotland in 2000 and France in 2013.

"It's the worst time to take on an Italian side because there is a lot of hope, especially after November where they beat South Africa," added Mallett.

"Wales' performance against Japan was not outstanding in the autumn and they didn't play well against Australia.

"Italy would have looked at that and would have though there is an opportunity against a side, maybe lacking confidence, who are trying to change its style to a more expansive game which I am not sure suits them.

"Italy will hope Wales falling between two stools will give them hope."

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