Rob Howley hoping to get Wales off to a flier in their Six Nation opener against Italy
Rob Howley's side, who notoriously struggle to get going in their first game together, visit Italy on Sunday knowing they have won just four of their opening tournament matches in the last decade.
That is a record interim head coach Howley is keen to change, the former scrum-half using the strength of his 37-man squad to pit two teams against each other in a full-contact contest designed to make sure Wales are ready to start at Test-match intensity in Rome.
Last Saturday's training game was refereed by top official Nigel Owens, and Howley believes it will stand his side in good stead for their meeting with the Azzurri.
"It was a good opportunity in terms of getting used to the shape we want to play with – that was something we needed to learn from the autumn," he said.
"In the last two weeks we have been putting foundations and blocks in place so hopefully the fundamentals are there for the next two games.
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"Nigel couldn't run for 80 minutes, he was tired on Saturday morning so it was about a 50-minute match. With Sunday in mind, it was important we focused on the tempo, accuracy and execution in our preparation.
"To have that opportunity is something we won't have next week with a six-day turnaround to the England game."
Wales face a tough schedule at the start of this year's Six Nations, travelling to Rome and then meeting Eddie Jones's England in Cardiff a week on Saturday.
Howley has picked an experienced side for the Stadio Olimpico clash, 10 of whom started November's win over South Africa.
Young Ospreys prop Nicky Smith has got the nod at loosehead over Rob Evans, while Jake Ball partners Alun Wyn Jones at lock and Ross Moriarty starts at No8. Ball and Moriarty replace the injured Luke Charteris and Taulupe Faletau, but elsewhere the side has a familiar feel to it.
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Liam Williams starts on the left wing with Leigh Halfpenny at full-back and Rhys Webb returns at scrum-half against an Italy side who go into their first Six Nations under former Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea.
"We certainly believe the Six Nations is going to be about momentum and we wanted to pick an experienced team to start the tournament," Howley said.
"That's our goal, to go over there and start this tournament well. We have picked experience, but they have to go out and play. The side that's been selected has a 70 per cent win ratio in the Six Nations. They know what winning looks and smells like, and that's the challenge on Sunday."
Wales have faced Italy in the last round of matches in both the last two years, scoring a mammoth total of 128 points at an average of a try just under every 10 minutes.
With the introduction of bonus points for this year's tournament, Howley's men will be targeting a repeat performance and while another thrashing might be too much to ask for, Wales should have too much for O'Shea's side.
Only two of Italy's starting XV play outside their homeland, but new captain Jones is wary of the danger posed by Sergio Parisse's side.
The second row was part of the Wales team that lost in Rome in 2007 and knows with iconic No8 Parisse in the opposition, Italy have the potential to cause an upset.
"I've been unfortunate enough to go to Italy and lose so I've experienced both sides of the coin," said Jones, who has succeeded Sam Warburton as skipper.
"I've said to Rob that the pressure is on the team to go out there and perform."
Wales: Halfpenny; North, J Davies, S Williams, L Williams; Biggar, Webb; Smith, Owens, Lee, Ball, Jones (capt), Warburton, Tipuric, Moriarty. Replacements: Baldwin, Evans, Francis, Hill, King, G Davies, S Davies, Roberts.
Italy: Padovani; Bisegni, Benvenuti, McLean, Venditti; Canna, Gori, Lovotti, Gega, Cittadini, Fuser, Biagi, Steyn, Mbanda, Parisse (capt). Replacements: Ghiraldini, Panico, Ceccarelli, Furno, Minto, Bronzini, Allan, Campagnaro